Long before Patterson Mill’s girls basketball team made its third straight state tournament, junior point guard Sam Herman made a bold prediction.
“I’ve been saying all season, ‘The third time is the charm,’” Herman said. “‘We’re coming out and we’re winning it all.’”
The No. 10 Huskies backed up that statement on Saturday, winning their first state championship.
Using stellar defense and a late 10-point run, Patterson Mill rallied to dethrone three-time defending champion Calvert, 33-30, for the Class 2A title at Towson’s SECU Arena. The Cavaliers beat the Huskies in the semifinals the last two years.
“We didn’t give up,” Patterson Mill guard Qalea Ismail said after her team rallied from six points down in the fourth quarter. “I don’t think there was a moment in the game where we slacked off. We still played hard. We knew we had to pick it up defensively, and that’s what we did.”
The Huskies (22-4) needed that defense, because they shot just 25 percent from the field.
Facing Calvert’s 6-foot-3 Daijha Thomas, who averaged 19 points per game this season, the Patterson Mill’s 2-3 zone double-teamed the Towson-bound senior, holding her to just two points. The 6-1 Ismail (14 points) stayed in front of her, with 5-11 freshman forward Chyna Latimer and 5-8 senior Stephanie Ehly closing in on the side.
The Huskies had prepared for Thomas by using their 6-4 coach, Holly Ismail, as a practice stand-in. On Saturday, Thomas didn’t attack the zone much and only four of her 16 rebounds were on the offensive end.
“They put an extra defender in front of Daijha, and we just had trouble getting the ball on the weak side of the court where there was an opening,” Calvert coach Tim Contee said. “Towards the second half we made an adjustment, and we were able to get there a few times and that’s when we made our run … but they did an awesome job as far as game plan.”
Patterson Mill also scored 27 points off 28 Calvert turnovers. The Huskies defense caused some of those turnovers, and freshman guard Khayla Mitchell had four steals, but the Cavaliers also had a lot of unforced errors.
Calvert turned the ball over six times in the final 5:55, helping Patterson Mill come back from a 28-22 deficit. Nine points in the Huskies’ 10-0 run in the fourth quarter came off nine Cavaliers turnovers.
With 4:30 left, Herman made a pair of free throws to kick off the rally, but when Mitchell nailed a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 28-27, the momentum was all Patterson Mill’s.
Mitchell had hit just one of 13 shots and missed all five 3-point attempts before that, but she never lost confidence.
“That big girl, every time I drove, she was blocking it,” Mitchell said. “So, I thought, ‘I have to keep on shooting [from the perimeter],’ so when I made that shot, I was overwhelmed with happiness. I was like, ‘I finally got one in there.’”
The Huskies then forced a turnover, and Ismail drove for a layup to take the lead for good, 29-28, with 2:32 left. After Calvert missed a couple of free throws, Herman stole the ball in the open court and converted the layup for a 31-28 lead with 1:08 to go.
After the Cavaliers’ next shot, Sydney Watson grabbed the offensive rebound, but 30 seconds later, the Huskies forced her to take a quick 3-point attempt as the shot clock ran down. Mitchell grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made the front end of the double bonus with 34 seconds left for a 32-28 lead.
Tyler Graves cut it to two for the Cavaliers, but Ismail was fouled and hit the first free throw with 3.4 seconds left.
The Huskies, who came into the tournament averaging 59.8 points per game, hadn’t scored below 40 all season. Saturday, they also struggled from the floor and the free throw line, where they made just 6 of 20 attempts.
“I would have never said we’d win a state championship scoring 33 points,” Holly Ismail said. “We’ve been shooting the ball really well in our last several games, and we went cold today. Some of that, we were putting up some rushed shots, not really great looks. But then, when we had good looks, we weren’t knocking them down and our free throws weren’t good, either.”
Early on, both teams seemed off kilter offensively, struggling to a 7-7 tie through the first 12 minutes. Ehly fed Latimer for a layup and a 9-7 Huskies lead with 3:32 left in the first half before Ismail hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the third quarter for the the biggest lead of the game, 15-7.