Photo by Colin MurphyChesapeake's Mikaela Gray and Northeast's Sabrina Benge tussled for rebounding position during the Cougars' win on February 10.
Season Complete, Chesapeake Girls Primed For Playoff Run
A spirited atmosphere set the stage for the Chesapeake girls basketball team’s 47-19 win over Northeast on February 12 as the Cougars celebrated senior night in style by surpassing last year’s 16-9 season win total and improving to 17-3 overall.
Chesapeake’s center-forward duo of Hallie Persell and Mikaela Gray continued their stellar winter campaigns against the Eagles, as Persell put up 18 points and a monstrous 18 rebounds and Gray scored 10 points to go with 13 boards. Brooke Worrell (9 points), Danielle Stewart (3 points), DeAsya Dailey (3 points), Summer Smith (2 points), Haley Downin (2 points) all got in on the act as the Cougars put the game away swiftly and gave an apt opening act to the boys’ subsequent victory over the Eagles.
With ensuing wins over South River on Valentine’s Day and Glen Burnie on February 17, the Cougars finished the regular season 19-3. If the team can make the deep playoff run it hopes for, it will surpass the winningest known season in program history, which occurred in 1992 when the team went 20-6 and lost in the state semifinals.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Coach Maria Gray knows the team will have a tough road in the 3A East.
“We’re encouraged, but we know there’s tough challenges ahead. We’re not taking anything lightly,” said Gray. “Right now, Stephen Decatur is [the No. 1 seed], and we’re 2. There are some tough 3A schools in Howard County.”
Still, the difficult slate of games against teams like Old Mill, Severna Park and South River should make the Cougars battle-tested for a deep run, and the Cougars have nonetheless achieved the ongoing goal of improving throughout the year.
“Basketball is a long season, and we’ve had a lot of successful runs,” said coach Gray. “You want to keep improving and peak for the playoffs. That’s been our intent and our goal from day one, keep strengthening the defense, keep working on the little things in practice that are going to make us stronger individually so we’re stronger as a team.”
Seniors Persell and Mikaela Gray reflected on the growth of the team over the years, evident in their outstanding season thus far, and a rivalry win on senior night.
“It’s special to see the hard work pay off, because we’ve all been playing together for two or three years now, so we’re all just finally getting it all to come together,” said Mikaela Gray. “We know having those experiences with us is going to carry us further in the playoffs.”
Persell said the tough tests they’ve faced this year will be a big asset for the team’s expected playoff run.
“I think our confidence level is pretty high,” said Persell, a senior. “Being challenged by the top teams really helps us, and the tough losses bring us closer together and make us work harder as a team. We’re pretty confident we can bring it home.”