While New Town was making most of the noise in Baltimore County boys basketball this season — most notably by ending Milford Mill's 99-game league winning streak — Randallstown was efficiently going about its business.
In Tuesday's Baltimore County championship game, the No. 7 Rams made sure it was their time.
Trailing 10 points at the half to the No. 5 Titans, Randallstown pulled close in the third quarter and took over in the fourth to come away with a resilient, 69-64, win at Towson University's SECU Arena.
Senior guard Jerell Cooke, who averages a team-high 23 points per game, was challenged at halftime after a quiet first half and woke up in a big way. He scored 17 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter to bring home the Rams' first Baltimore County championship since 2007. It also ended Milford Mill's five-year run as county champion.
"It was hard," Cooke said. "I knew I had to bring my team together, turn it up and we pulled through at the end. This means a lot."
Randallstown improved to 20-3 on the season, while New Town, which had won 15 straight games, fell to 18-5.
The Titans' last loss came against the Rams on Jan. 4 — a 49-48 defeat decided in the final seconds. This one wasn't much different.
Tied at 58, Cooke hit a 3-pointer with 2:29 left to give Randallstown the lead for good.
New Town would get within two points on two occasions, but the Rams answered both times. After Cooke scored inside to make it 65-61 with 47 seconds left, the Titans' Jalen Mack hit a 3-pointer to cut lead to 65-64 seconds later.
Anthony Granger then took an inside feed from Jeremy Robinson to push the lead to 67-64, and then Cooke reached the career 1,000-point plateau with two free throws in the closing seconds.
Before the season, Randallstown lost standout senior Tommy Heard to a season-ending knee injury and then had fellow three-year starters Chris Manning and Devin Smith go down with injuries. The Rams were able to persevere, and now have Manning and Smith back with big expectations going into the Class 2A North region playoffs.
"It means a lot. The kids worked hard, they stuck to the game plan and they executed down the stretch," Randallstown sixth-year coach Kevin English said. "Jerell Cooke basically stepped up. We challenged him at halftime. He's the leading scorer in the county and we told him he wasn't playing like the leading scorer in the county … and he responded."
Senior guard Jeremy Robinson added 13 points in the win. Manning scored eight and Smith finishing with seven.
Tightly contested well into the second quarter, the Titans closed out the final three minutes with a 13-2 run that gave them a 37-27 halftime lead.
Senior forward Damien Hamler was the catalyst with nine points, including a dunk with 1:02 to play for a 32-27 lead.
In the closing minute, Quincy Roche scored a basket and then Malik Jones hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 27 seconds left to provide New Town with its first double-digit lead.
After managing just five points in the third quarter and seeing the lead cut to 47-42 going into the fourth, the Titans weren't able to get on track offensively in a bid to bring home the program's first county championship.
Kenny Sherrod scored 14 points to lead New Town, which missed six of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter.
"Foul shots and layups. When you're playing the kind of game like this, you have to be able to convert ... and for some odd reason we didn't," New Town coach Mike Daniel said. "We got to get ready for the playoffs now — that's the bottom line."
Baltimore County championship
(at Towson University)
7 Randallstown 69, New Town 64
R – Atelefeck 4, Smith 7, Cooke 26, Manning 8, Granger 6, Robinson 13, Banks 5. Totals: 25 14-23 69
NT – Sherrod 14, Mack 10, Roche 8, Smith 4, Shand 6, Jones 10, Hamler 9, Sargent 2, Neal 1. Totals: 22 14-26 64
Half:Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun