TOWSON — The Eleanor Roosevelt girls’ basketball team ran into a bevy of problems during the class 4A state title game at the SECU Arena in Towson on March 10.
The Lady Raiders had plenty of trouble with the harassing, physical defense that Catonsville High School played, creating 28 turnovers in a mistake-filled contest. Eleanor Roosevelt also struggled on offense at various times and finished with just one player scoring in double-figures.
However, that one proved to be just enough. Ashia McCalla came through for the Raiders when they needed it, scoring a game-high 29 points as Eleanor Roosevelt captured the class 4A state championship with a 60-56 victory over Catonsville.
The Raiders (24-3) now have won eight state championships - more than any other school in Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) history. Catonsville (23-4) was the defending champ, having won its first state crown last year.
It was a sloppy game thanks to the 41 fouls called and 54 turnovers – Catonsville had 26 itself – but both teams kept pushing and working. Everything went right down until the final 10 seconds.
“What a game,” Eleanor Roosevelt Head Coach Delton Fuller said. “They were tough. It got physical. These young ladies played hard. They stuck to the plan.”
The Raiders worked hard at controlling Catonsville senior guard Jasmine Dickey, heading to the University of Delaware next fall. Dickey finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds but made just five baskets as the box-and-one strategy that Fuller put in slowed her down. She did not make a basket in the first half.
Roosevelt could have done more damage if Dickey had not made 12-of-15 attempts from the line.
However, Morgan State University-bound McCalla might have done a little more. She finished with nine rebounds and hit nine of 11 from the free throw line. McCalla stepped up big in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 of the team’s 11 points during that period.
In fact, her two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining gave the Raiders a 60-56 advantage and locked up everything.
“She does good things; she makes big shots,” Fuller said. “That’s what she does.”
One of her prominent shots was the first basket she made in the fourth quarter. After McCalla hit a jumper just before the buzzer in the third quarter, Roosevelt took a 49-43 lead into the final period.
However, the Lady Raiders went cold and were clinging to a two-point lead (49-47) when McCalla made a long three-pointer from the left corner with just more than four minutes remaining – the first points Roosevelt scored in the period.
She fired the shot and fell backward into the Roosevelt bench but drilled the three that gave the Raiders a 52-47 lead.
“When I looked up, I saw five seconds on the shot clock,” McCalla said. “I had nowhere to go, so I stepped back and shot it. I work on that all the time, so as soon as I let it go, I knew it was going in.”
She added a free throw on the next possession on a slick drive-and-scoop shot for a 55-47 lead with 2:37 left. McCalla hit two more free throws for a 57-49 edge with 1:01 remaining before the Comets scored five quick points.
Taylor McCormick made one of two free throws with 36.1 seconds left before a Dickey jumper cut the lead to 58-56 with 9.3 seconds remaining.
However, McCalla added two critical free throws with 8.2 seconds left and moments later the Raiders were celebrating.
That meant a lot to Roosevelt since it fell in the state semifinals last year. The Raiders had been pointing toward this all season.
“This is all we wanted, and we did it,” McCalla said afterward with a big smile on her face.”
Nia Scott added nine points and eight rebounds for Roosevelt, which helped its cause by making 14-of-18 free throws and hit four of nine three-pointers.
The 28 turnovers did not kill the Raiders as Catonsville scored just 18 points off of them. However, the 26 Comet turnovers hurt Catonsville as did the team’s 26 percent shooting (15-for-57) from the field.
“I’ll give Roosevelt credit,” Catonsville coach Mike Mohler said. “(But) we did enough self-destructive stuff.”