ROCKVILLE — Bethesda-Chevy Chase head coach Ryan Ingalls pumped her fist and yelled with joy as Barons senior Caitlyn Clendenin made a layup while being fouled. The Barons’ student section jumped out of their seats and cheered. B-CC was still trailing, but the momentum had certainly turned.
The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Barons varsity girls basketball team looked completely dead in the water as the Richard Montgomery Rockets dominated early on. Still, this close-knit Barons team never gave in, coming back to win the game 56-49. The win marked the first ever regional championship in team history.
“It’s awesome, we’ve worked so hard. This was our goal at the beginning of the season. We knew this was what we wanted to do. It feels good to finally do it,” Clendenin said.
The Rockets, who had lost just one game all season (to the Barons in the regular season finale), came out absolutely on fire. RM forced turnover after turnover after turnover, and jumped out to an 11-0 lead over the Barons. RM’s Nusaibah Rashad had 10 points in the first quarter, and finished the game with 24.
“We knew that we weren't playing our game, we just had to settle down,” Ingalls said.
“Especially ‘cause it was the first quarter, we knew the game wasn’t done. It’s wasn’t even close to over,” Clendenin said.
B-CC struggled through the first quarter, and fell behind 24-11 in the second, the largest deficit they faced in the game.
Then something clicked. The Barons began to claw their way back, and with and-ones from both Clendenin and Charlotte Lowndes, the tide of the game turned 180 degrees.
It was an and-one that gave the Barons their first lead of the game as well. Clendenin rebounded her own miss, and finished off a layup. She missed the free throw, but B-CC held its first lead, 31-28. At the end of the third quarter, the Barons and Rockets were tied at 38.
B-CC scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, starting the frame on an 8-2 run, 14 of those points were scored by Clendenin and Lowndes. B-CC’s fourth-quarter run continued to a 15-5 margin, and B-CC took a ten-point lead with 1:54 to play, a 23-point swing.
B-CC closed out the game, and as the final buzzer sounded, the Barons players sprinted towards their teammates to celebrate, their faces combining looks of shock and amazement of what they had just accomplished.
“It’s really just grit,” Ingalls said of the comeback. “The girls, they want it. They play together; I’ve never seen a bunch of girls that get along like they do. I’m so happy for them, and for the program.”
“We never gave up,” Lowndes said.
B-CC has been so close to making a playoff run year after year during the careers of Clendenin and Lowndes. Though until this year, they’ve never been able to get over the hump. The last time B-CC played in the regional championship was 2004, when Ingalls was a player. Still, this B-CC girls team has done what none of their predecessors have, winning the regional, the biggest game in team history.
“It means a heck of a lot. I went to B-CC, I bleed blue and gold. I’m just so happy to be able to go to states with this awesome team,” Ingalls said.
Just as it’s been the case all season long, Clendenin and Lowndes came up huge for the Barons in big spots. The two combined for 40 points, and scored in the biggest moments.
“They stepped it up when they had to,” Ingalls said. “[Lowndes] really got us going, and we were able to keep it going, it got everyone else going and got them confident.”
Between Lowndes shooting and Clendenin’s inside presence, this B-CC duo proved nearly impossible to stop.
However, in B-CC’s first ever state semifinal, the Barons will receive no favors as they face the defending 4A state champion Catonsville Comets. The game will be played at Towson University on Thursday, March 8.