In what would be their final game together, the five senior starters on the Damascus High School girls’ basketball team gathered at the head table of Towson University’s media room emotionally and physically drained after the Swarmin’ Hornets lost, 40-37, to Milford Mill Academy in the Class 3A state championship game.
Damascus (23-4) was making its first state title game appearance in school history and through much of the contest the Swarmin’ Hornets were on the cusp of victory. In many respects, Damascus delivered a winning effort. Its five senior starters, Jenna Kaufman, Libby Bowles, Lauren Green, Anna Warfield and Kelli Prange combined for all but two of the Swarmin’ Hornets points while collectively playing 150 of a possible 160 minutes.
Prange, a George Washington University recruit, led all scorers with 20 points and added 17 rebounds.
“One thing about this team was they played hard the whole game,” Damascus coach Steve Pisarski said. “They gave it everything they had. We didn’t score as many points as I would have liked. But if you would have told me we would hold them to 40 points, I would have been happy with that. The only trouble was we didn’t score 41. But these girls sitting here beside me were super. They have me everything they had.”
“I was so proud to be part of this team,” Prange said. “I knew this was going to be my last game with these girls and I really wanted to go out with a state championship. We came so close. There were so many shots that just missed. Every time it looked like we were going to take the lead, a shot would just fall short.”
Green connected on 4 of 17 shots from the floor and missed all five of her 3-point attempts, but she had 10 points and nine rebounds.
“I think we had a little trouble with their pressure defense early, but we found a way to get through that,” said Green, who is headed to Bentley College in the fall. “It just wasn’t our night. We knew they were going to try to deny Kelli from getting her points inside, so it was really up to our guards to keep the pressure off of her. She had another great game.”
Milford Mill owned a modest, 18-16 lead at halftime and extended it slightly to 31-27 after three quarters. Damascus had tied the score twice during quarter on a layup by Prange and a 3-pointer by Bowles. The Millers took their biggest lead of the night midway through the fourth quarter on a Kelli Smoot 3-pointer, but the Swarmin’ Hornets countered with a bucket from Prange and two free throws from Green to get within 35-33 with 2 minutes, 38 seconds remaining.
“This is kind of surreal,” Milford Mill coach DeToiya McAliley said. “We had won the state title in 2005 in my first year. To get back here and do it again after all that time is something of a relief. We knew we had to keep [Prange] off the block. She’s the biggest girl we faced all season. We didn’t have anyone that could match her, so we had to keep two girls on her down low.”
Milford Mill 40, Damascus 37
Milford Mill 8 10 13 9—40
Damascus 11 5 11 10—37
Milford Mill (40) — Kelli Smoot 11, Dionna White 17, Deja McKenzie 4, Kri’Shea Thompson 2, Akiri Lewis 3, Qierra Murray 3.
Damascuis (37) — Jenna Kaufman 2, Lauren Green 10, Kelli Prange 20, Libby Bowles 3. Tiana Stewart 2