Earlier Monday, Camille Martin told her coach, Charlie Thomas, that she wasn’t ready for the season to be over yet.
Martin is one of three remaining seniors on the Tuscarora girls basketball team. One more loss means she, Milca Barou and Jayla Ambush would be turning in their uniforms for good.
The rest of the team has changed around the trio, which collectively forms the heartbeat of the team.
“Honestly, it’s just chemistry,” Martin said. “In practice, we lift each other up. High fives. After every drill we do in practice, we always keep each other up, keep talking, communicating. That’s what honestly wins us games.”
Down 10 in the second half of a Class 3A West Region I playoff game to Linganore, a team that beat Tuscarora twice during the regular season, the Titans rallied for a 51-46 victory on the strength of their defensive press and their athleticism.
“Just because you are down doesn’t mean you let up,” Martin said. “You got to keep persevering.”
Tuscarora (13-8) advanced to Wednesday’s 3A West Region I final against Frederick High (20-4), which beat North Hagerstown on Monday in the other semifinal.
Martin scored five straight points for the Titans to give them a 45-43 lead over Linganore with 3 minutes, 23 seconds to play. That spurt propelled her toward a game-high 20 points.
Taylor Ferguson answered with a 3-pointer to put the Lancers in front 46-45 with just over a minute to play. That was one of four 3s for Ferguson, who led her team with 12 points. Linganore finished with eight 3s in the game, one fewer than its number of two-point baskets made.
But Barou got free for the go-ahead layup with just under a minute to play for Tuscarora and then added a pair of free throws with 26.2 seconds left to give the Titans a 49-46 lead. She finished with 10 points.
Linganore then turned it over against the Tuscarora press on the ensuing possession, and sophomore Ageaira Frazier added a basket while being fouled with 12 seconds left to put the game away for the Titans.
Though she missed the free throw, Frazier finished with nine points.
“This was a fun game for us. That’s all it was,” Thomas said. “Last year, I think we got them twice. This year, they get us twice. So, this was awesome.”
Thomas anticipated Linganore would be ready for his team’s press, and he was content to not use it in the first half and rely on the zone defense Tuscarora has employed extensively to get stops.
But when the Titans fell behind by 10 (28-18) in the opening minutes of the second half, Thomas said “I had no choice” when it came to using the press.
“We got a couple of turnovers. The girls got in a little rhythm. Camille got a [three-point play]. It just got us rolling,” he said. “We got into our style of play, which is up and down, pressing. You know, havoc. Chaos.”
By the middle of the third quarter, Tuscarora had chopped its deficit down to three. Then, a layup by Natalie Pryor and a pair of free throws from Martin gave the Titans a 35-32 lead going into the fourth quarter. They trailed 24-18 at halftime.
“We practiced against everything that we saw tonight. I think some things fell for them, and some things just didn’t fall for us,” Linganore coach Rachael Easterday said. “Hats off to them. They had a good game plan. They executed, and we didn’t at certain times.”
Like Linganore, Frederick High beat Tuscarora twice during the regular season, with the most recent being a 40-32 road win on February 21.
But with a murky coaching situation and a depleted roster, the Cadets are a much different team than the one that claimed the last three 3A state titles.
“We know they are going to be tough,” Thomas said. “They are going to be well coached. They haven’t lost the system because it’s the same system they have been running forever. I mean, I think we definitely have a fair shot. I believe in my girls.”