THURMONT — Catoctin girls basketball player Taylor Smith is still in the early stage of her freshman season, so she hasn’t had a chance to play in a high school playoff game yet.
But Friday night’s game against Williamsport, which pitted a pair of undefeated teams locked in a hard-fought battle, gave Smith a pretty good idea of what to expect come postseason time. She can take Cougars senior Emma Wivell’s word for it.
“It was kind of like a playoff atmosphere,” Wivell said.
Wivell had a game-high 29 points, Smith chipped in a career-high 19 points while also guarding Wildcats star Paige Smith, and both Cougars made vital contributions to a 22-7 game-closing run that allowed host Catoctin to pull out a 71-57 win.
“We’ve been so pumped for this game all day,” Taylor Smith said. “This was a big one for us.”
Catoctin (9-0) has its sights set on making a run at the Class 1A state title, and being able to prevail against a strong 2A team like Williamsport (7-1) suggests the Cougars are heading in the right direction.
“We got better tonight as a team because that was a quality basketball game against a quality opponent,” Cougars coach Amy Entwistle said. “It was a battle of two really good teams just going at it for four quarters.”
While the Wildcats had been holding opponents to 31.1 points a game, the Cougars nearly scored that many in the first quarter, when they rarely missed shots and took a 25-13 lead.
Catoctin’s plan was to maintain an uptempo pace to counter Williamsport’s height advantage. But with an offensive force like junior guard Paige Smith, the Wildcats weren’t about to let the game get out of reach.
Smith (24 points) hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the third, and the Wildcats found themselves with a slight lead midway through the quarter.
“They got back in the game. I don’t thing we panicked, though,” Taylor Smith said. “We stayed together and we were able to come back, get a run.”
Murray thought that run hinged on her team’s defense. Williamsport began committing turnovers, and the Cougars held Paige Smith scoreless for the final 14 minutes.
“That girl is just extremely talented,” said Entwistle, who praised Cougars who defended Smith, including Taylor Smith (no relation), Emily Williams and Lily Gadra, among others. “They were full throttle, hearts out, trying to face-guard and deny her those opportunities.”
Taylor Smith spent a good portion of the night guarding the Wildcats standout.
“Whatever you ask her to do, she’s going to give you everything she has,” Entwistle said. “I know she had to be tired. I mean, she was face-guarding the whole time, and then she’s still making plays on the other end in the transition.”
Taylor Smith contributed eight points to Catoctin’s game-winning run. Many of them came on transitions and were set up by nice passes from Cougars like Wivell. But Smith also scored on a nifty reverse layup, a first for her in a game, giving the Cougars a 62-53 lead with 4:51 left.
“That was beautiful,” Entwistle said.
As usual, Wivell did her part. She hit a big 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the third quarter, and she hit four free throws in the final minutes to help seal the win. She thought her team’s ability to do the little things loomed large.
“I think it kind of proved, especially to a lot of the underclassmen who haven’t really been in these situations before, that we truly do have a shot at states. That’s our goal,” Wivell said. “And in an atmosphere like this, against a 2A team, if you can beat them, it really just proved to anyone that we’re not here to mess around.”
Wivell had nine rebounds, five steals and four assists. Taylor Smith had three steals, Gadra (who missed the early part of the season with a concussion) had 11 points, and Emily Williams had seven assists and six rebounds.
Williamsport won the JV game 40-37. Kayden Glotfelty led the Cougars with 17 points, and Abbey Shaffer scored 14.