I was standing at courtside in the Xfinity Center on Thursday, March 10, 2021, on the campus of the University of Maryland with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I watched senior Emily Wivell in the middle of the court with a stunned look of utter disappointment on her face as the loss of the championship began to sink in. The Lady Cougars basketball team’s fourth quarter meltdown had resulted in the loss of the State Girls 1A Basketball Championship to Pikesville.
Just a year earlier, as I was preparing to broadcast our Catoctin boys basketball quarterfinal playoff at Lake Clifton, I found out my co-broadcaster had a family emergency, and I was left alone at courtside wondering what to do. The Lady Cougars basketball team had just arrived at this Baltimore City gym, and I spotted Emily Wivell and motioned her over to my table. I asked Emily to help me broadcast the game, figuring like most high school girls, she would be afraid and say no, but she smiled and said: “Sure!” She was amazing! She was a Lady Cougar through and through. She was confident, funny, and witty, and really enjoyed helping the fans understand the game and supporting her Catoctin boys team. She was a real team player and a joy to have on the radio with me.
The first thing I saw, as the buzzer sounded to end the Lady Cougar’s 2021 season, a year later, was the look on Emily’s face. It broke my heart, especially when I saw her and Emily Williams hugging Coach Amy and crying. I almost lost it right there!
But, there was an important lesson learned that day, and it seems to have taken its hold on several Lady Cougars who carry that legacy forward. No more so than the tough, gritty, athletic Taylor Smith, who was all over the court that day, recording five steals and a team high 19 points. Taylor was only a freshman. And, who wouldn’t remember the roar of the crowd when little freshman JV call-up Kayden Glotfelty came into the game and knocked down a sizzling three-pointer that stunned Pikesville to take the lead at the half.
Now those battle-tested freshmen are leaders on this 2022 team, and they are only sophomores. There are no senior starters on this team. This team is fast, relentless, and plays disciplined defense. They thrive on the turnover, and their speed leaves opponents confused and in disarray.
This is a fun basketball team to watch. Undefeated heading into the Christmas break, they have faced stiff competition at Oakdale and Middletown and never looked back. They are sitting atop first place in the CMC with a nice-looking schedule heading into January, and no real stiff competition until they face Linganore in late January…and did I mention they are young?
With a freshman, three sophomores, four juniors, and only two seniors, that’s a 10.7 average grade level for the team. Nine out of the ten players on this team were there for the 2021 State Championship last March. That is the very definition of playoff experience. One new freshman player reminds us of Taylor Smith last year: Brooke Williams is the youngest, tallest girl on the team, and the freshman plays tenacious defense.
Take some time this month to come out and support the Lady Cougars basketball team. If I was so emotionally changed by what I saw in College Park last March, imagine how nine of the girls on this team feel about their 2022 season, and how you will feel when you see them play.