The first five baskets made by Chesapeake’s girls basketball team against Northeast on January 18 were each scored by a different starter.
It set the tone: Chesapeake needed contributions from everyone in order to dispatch their visiting rivals.
The eight-girl roster was up to the task, as Chesapeake’s distributed scoring and shared playmaking allowed the shorthanded Cougars to recover from a blown double-digit lead and rebound to defeat Northeast 60-45.
Cougar senior Ashley Chew led all scorers with 24 points — including 12 in Chesapeake’s breakaway third quarter — and added 7 rebounds and 3 assists in the victory. Sophomore forward Michaela Dennis notched her first varsity double-double by scoring 10 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.
Senior Morgan Gray scored 8 points to go with 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, and sophomore center Kylie Capes pulled down 9 rebounds. Freshmen Ella Shannon (2 points, 4 assists) and Madison Kelly (5 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) and juniors Juliana Brady (8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) and Mya Hamstra (one 3-pointer) fortified a balanced all-around effort for the Cougars.
“We need everyone, and everyone did contribute,” said head coach Maria Gray. “We talked about that after the game. Everyone had a key moment.”
Chesapeake lost its county opener to Northeast on December 6, 46-42, when the Cougars rostered only seven players. Without injured player Georgia Spangler, Chesapeake nonetheless looked to write a different story in the rematch, and they made immediate strides toward their goal by jumping out to a 15-3 lead as the starters took turns making shots, Gray hit a baby hook in the lane, and Kelly made a steal and a breakaway layup.
Northeast switched to a 2-3 zone in the second quarter and added a three-quarter-court trap, disrupting Chesapeake’s flow. The Eagles’ Allyson Wills helped fuel a comeback with repeated steals and drives to the basket; she finished the game with a team-high 19 points. When Northeast’s Mackenzie Coburn hit a 3-pointer to open the second half, Northeast had put together a 15-3 run to tie the game at 18-18.
“We just can’t give up. It’s all hustle,” said Wills. “That’s what’s brought us back.”
With the game tied, Chew took over. She made a nice drive from the right wing into a nifty left-handed layup, then made a steal and went all the way in for another score. Capes pulled down an offensive rebound and passed it out to Brady, who swung it to Chew for a top-of-the-key 3-pointer: swish. Chesapeake was back up by double-digits, 33-22.
“The third quarter, I was determined for the rest of the game,” said Chew, who is accustomed to scoring in general, as she was the county’s leading goal-scorer during the fall soccer season with 23 goals. “The third quarter is where they could win or we could win. I knew right then and there we had to beat them mentally and get our offense better than we were in the first half.”
Coach Gray said when Chew gets the fire in her eyes, she’s hard to stop.
“She was in attack mode, locked in and focused,” said Gray. “This is her senior year, the rivalry game that she’s been playing in for four years now, so they know each other through basketball and soccer, and she just found her groove. And, she’s really falling into that leadership role, so to see her having that kind of poise and leadership is great.”
Northeast would not quit, and they hung around within striking distance of Chesapeake throughout the game. Coburn hit a pair of fourth-quarter 3’s and finished with 15 points, and point guard Jaida Savoy showed burst with several steals and drives to the hoop — she finished with 6 points. Alyssa Borgert and Caroline Makarovich added baskets, and Camryn Nalley and Kiersten Tomshack contributed with minutes, but Northeast couldn’t mount another comeback to sweep the Cougars on the season.
“They just wanted it more tonight,” said Northeast coach Ed Nalley. “We got outplayed, outrebounded and outcoached. We just need to come together better as a team, get more people involved. It’s a tough one.”
Wills’ eyes widened when asked about the possibility of a playoff rubber match with the Cougars.
“We’ve just got to keep playing, we can’t stop,” said Wills. “We’ve got to play defense, can’t let them shoot early. We have to get in their head and get them in foul trouble.”
Now 6-6, Chesapeake is finding its form with the playoffs approaching. Gray praised the team’s younger players, like Dennis, who are skilled and blossoming as the season goes on.
“Our young players really have a lot of potential,” said Gray. “We have Michaela, who’s just been kind of finding her way, and she had a double-double tonight, a real breakout for her. So you need that. I think we just showed growth all around, and everyone contributed and played an important role tonight.”
Chew said that even with a small roster, the team has gotten much better since the season began.
“Our first game of the season was against [Northeast], but now, we all click,” said Chew. “A lot of our talents have improved. We all work well together. None of us are selfish. We worked on a lot of our fundamentals. Our defense — we like to help each other there. So I think overall, everything is better from the first game this year.”
Naturally, a win over rivals on a Friday night is also memory to savor.
“It feels really good,” said Chew. “This is a team that, we’re running with a lot of positive energy right now. It’s a great team to be on my senior year. It’s a lot of fun.”