Milford Mill's girls basketball team had almost everything it needed to contend with No. 1 Aberdeen on Friday night except a post player who could handle the Eagles' 6-foot-3 All-Metro center Brionna Jones.
Jones scored a career-high 40 points, pulled down 15 rebounds and blocked six shots to lead the host Eagles to an 84-66 victory over previously-undefeated and No. 10 Milford Mill for their second straight Class 3A North championship.
The Eagles (25-1) cut down the net and enjoyed a tempered celebrationbecause after falling in last year's state title game, they want the celebrating to come next Saturday after the state finals.
Aberdeen advances to Thursday's state semifinals at UMBC's RAC Arena against defending state champion Frederick, which beat the Eagles 76-71 last March. Frederick defeated Damascus 60-59 in overtime Friday to secure its spot in the state semifinal.
"It's been our goal to go back," Eagles senior guard Nia Alleyne said. "Now it's time to celebrate a little, but more so to focus on the end, finishing the season with the win that we want."
Friday night, the Baltimore County champion Millers (25-1) showed the Eagles they were in for a game. After Aberdeen scored the first 10 points, the Millers rallied to take a 17-16 lead on Sierra Naylor's follow shot with 1:35 left in the first quarter.
Alleyne said the Millers were every bit as quick as nationally-ranked Riverdale Baptist, which dealt the Eagles their only loss this season. But the Millers were smaller than Aberdeen and they could not stop the entry passes to Jones, who was assisted on 10 of her 16 field goals and scored four others on putbacks.
"They get it to me when I'm open," the junior center said, "and I couldn't have done it without them. Overall, they were smaller than us, so we just knew we had to get it in the paint more and take advantage of our size against them."
The Eagles made their break in the second quarter after Millers' stellar freshman guard Dionna White fed Lynquette Hutchinson for a layup to pull Milford within three with 2:41 to go. After that, Aberdeen scored 10 straight to go into the half up 42-29 as forward TK Fowlkes (14 points) converted a steal at the buzzer.
The Millers kept pace until late in the third quarter. They were within 13 when Jones scored twice and freshman guard Kierra Palmer converted two steals to start a 14-0 run that all but put the game away. Jones's follow shot to open the fourth quarter boosted the lead to 66-39.
With only four seniors, the young Millers will look to build on this season's success. White scored 18 against Aberdeen and sophomore forward Akiri Lewis had 20. Coach DeToiya McAliley, who guided Milford to its only state title in 2005, told them to use the loss as motivation.
"We've got a few things to work on that we didn't do consistently that we work on in practice," McAliley said, "but this doesn't take anything away from our season. We had a wonderful season. I'm happy about what we accomplished, but we'll be back."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun