The Washington Post
Bulldogs hop on the bus and motor to state final
When the Churchill girls’ basketball team boarded a bus bound for Paint Branch High and a Maryland 4A state semifinal matchup with Western on Tuesday, that moment marked the furthest the Bulldogs’ seniors had advanced in the playoffs.
Three years ago, they made it to the penultimate round. But as they gathered before heading to the bus, they were told that their game was postponed amid the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. The rest of the playoffs were canceled.
This year’s team got to hop on that bus — and then it blew out Western, 61-44, behind a combined 43 points from seniors Chelsea Calkins and Dillan George. Next up is a championship game matchup with Glen Burnie on Friday at Xfinity Center in College Park, where the Bulldogs will seek their first state title since winning back-to-back championships in 2002 and 2003.
“It felt like things finally fell into place,” said George, who scored Churchill’s first 10 points and finished with a game-high 23. “The end of freshman year was so abrupt, and just to know for sure that [this year’s semifinal] was happening . . . it really felt good.”
She and Calkins, along with Miranda Hill and Allison Coleman, are the only seniors on Churchill’s roster who were on the varsity squad as freshmen.
Their first game was a win over Paint Branch in the same gym that hosted Tuesday’s victory, and it tipped off a tumultuous four years. The pandemic wiped out their sophomore season. Their junior year — disrupted by an injury to a key senior — ended in the quarterfinals with a loss to eventual state champion Western.
This year, Churchill (24-3) cruised through the regular season en route to the Montgomery County championship. The Bulldogs trailed in the fourth quarter of their first two playoff wins but rallied to advance before notching a comfortable win over Parkdale in the quarterfinals.
“I’m starting to feel like we’re the team of destiny,” Coach Pete Mcmahon said.
His backcourt of Calkins and George powers most of that success. Their connection was apparent in the third quarter when Calkins, who scored 20 points, had few options as she tumbled to the floor. She managed to find George, who sprinted downcourt and scored an and-one.
“I just always know, if I have no one to pass to, no one’s open,” Calkins said, “I can just pass it to Dillan.”
In Tuesday’s second game at Paint Branch, Glen Burnie beat Severna Park, 45-28, to secure its first appearance in the state title game despite playing a chunk of the second half without star guard Amourie Porter. She committed her fourth foul midway through the third quarter and sat until 5:31 remained in the fourth.
Glen Burnie didn’t struggle without her largely because of Lania Nick, who scored nine points in a third quarter punctuated by a deep, buzzer-beating three-pointer. Coach Sam Porter had lit into the senior earlier in the game, a conversation she took as encouragement.
“With [Amourie Porter] having to come off, I knew I had to step up a little bit more because at first I wasn’t playing my best,” Nick said. “. . . [Coach] knows what I’m capable of. I know what I’m capable of. So him pushing me . . . it kind of just gives me energy.”