By Nelson Coffin
A 59-46 loss to Indian Creek on Friday afternoon in Owings Mills never looked so good to Garrison Forest basketball coach T’lia Walker Dennis, whose positive attitude alone should carry the Grizzlies a long way this season.
She was obviously thrilled that her team was able to slice a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit to six points late in the period — until Indian Creek junior Maddy Evans restored order by notching the final six of her game-high 36 points down the stretch of the showdown between the teams that have won the past three C Conference titles.
“I told the girls that the hardest part of a game is digging out of a hole like we did,” said Dennis, whose team claimed conference crowns 2015 and 2016. “I really liked our ball movement. I liked how we were breaking their press. A lot of times we beat ourselves, but we didn’t do that today.”
The Grizzlies’ 14-1 run was ignited by a bank shot by sophomore guard Lexi Coldiron and sustained on a layup by freshman guard Rashiya Howell, a stick-back by freshman forward London Hicks and a Coldiron drive to get back in the game with two minutes remaining in regulation, forcing Indian Creek coach Jamie Smith to call a timeout.
“Because we don’t have a JV this year, we gave a lot of girls the chance to play,” Smith said about how quickly the big lead was slashed.
And that meant Evans was asked to go back out on the floor where she promptly completed a three-point play after being fouled on a drive before knocking down three-of-four additional free throws to hold off the Grizzlies.
In addition to her monster scoring game, Evans also totaled 11 rebounds and eight assists in the victory.
“We knew they’d have some fire under them to play us,” said Evans, alluding to last year’s C Conference championship game won by the Eagles, 43-36. “We were aware that they were coming back (in today’s game), but we knew we could do it if we used our transition game.”
Smith said that Evans does not look to score.
“Maddy just scores when it’s the most obvious choice,” he said. “She usually defers to others. She is really a team-oriented player.”
He said that there is no clear-cut favorite to take the C Conference this winter, although his team is in the thick of things with a 7-5 overall record and a 5-2 conference mark. Garrison is now 2-4 and 2-3 in league play.
Even so, Dennis said that she thinks her team has a good chance to reach the final for the fourth consecutive time next month.
“I’m excited about where we are now,” she said. “We have all the pieces we need to get back. We have five players capable of double-doubles. And our freshmen are getting more comfortable and more productive.”
Evans said that beating Garrison might be a springboard for the rest of the season.
“I think it’s a good way of getting back on track,” she said.
Her coach said that the pecking order in the C Conference behind 7-0 Bryn Mawr isn’t clear at this point.
“We don’t know who the real powerhouses will be yet,” he said. “But we’re coming together, and we hope to be more cohesive by February.”