Pocomoke tried to rally late in the first half against Patterson Mill as the Huskies dealt with foul problems, and the Warriors sliced a 15-point lead to nine with just over two minutes left. That's when Huskies coach Holly Ismail made her move.
Ismail put Chyna Latimer back into the game, even though the senior guard already picked up two fouls and was on the bench. Latimer quickly sparked an 18-point run that gave the Huskies a 27-point lead midway through the third quarter, and Patterson Mill rolled to a 63-25 victory over Pocomoke in a Class 1A state semifinal Friday night at Towson's SECU Arena.
Patterson Mill (25-1) advanced to Saturday's state final versus (Southern-Garrett/Southwestern winner) at 6 p.m. The Huskies will be trying to win their third state title in the last four years.
Latimer finished with a game-high 23 points plus four rebounds and four assists and had told Ismail that she could help out again in the final minutes of that first half despite the fouls.
"I just felt like I [should] go back in," Latimer said.
Ismail said she talks to her players about believing in them if she puts them in the game and there are foul issues. The coach was trying to keep Latimer out until halftime but inserted her after the guard said it was OK.
"I have to have trust in them," Ismail said. "I wanted to put her in. Once we got comfortable, I thought we played [much better]."
Latimer got help from teammates Khayla Mitchell and Lucie Passwater. Mitchell, a guard, added 13 points, seven assists and five steals. Passwater, a 6-2 center, finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds plus seven blocks, giving Patterson Mill an inside force that Pocomoke (14-12) couldn't deal with.
Steals also helped the Huskies, who were simply too quick and too fast for the Warriors. Patterson Mill made 11 steals as the Warriors turned the ball over 28 times, and the Huskies scored 35 points off those miscues. The steals or turnovers often turned into easy lay-ups or good scoring chances - especially in the second half, when it happened on a regular basis.
In fact, the Huskies scored 44 of their 63 points in the paint. Even though Ismail pulled most of her starters by the fourth quarter, the Huskies kept getting those lay-ups or easy shots. They stretched the lead to 42 at one point in that final period.
That quickness that led to the steals also helped Patterson Mill shut down the Pocomoke offense.
Pocomoke coach Corey Zimmer said his team ran into a bit of a buzzsaw in this game, especially on defense. The Warriors shot poorly throughout, making just nine of 50 from the field (18 percent) and never scoring more than eight points in a quarter. They often shot air-balls as Patterson Mill hounded them on defense.
Teirra Thomas led Pocomoke with 13 points.
"They are a very fundamentally sound team," Zimmer said. "They play fundamentally sound defense. They were able to read what we were doing."