The Milford Mill boys basketball team set a fast pace to Thursday's Class 3A state semifinal game, challenging overmatched Urbana to keep up.
Guards Justin Jenifer, Bruce Watkins and the rest of the No. 4 Millers simply wouldn't let the Hawks stay close for long.
Jenifer scored a game-high 20 points, Watkins added 18 as the Millers cruised to a 78-53 win over Urbana at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center.
Milford Mill (25-2) will look to win its sixth state title when the Millers face Potomac, from Prince George's County, in the Class 3A championship Saturday at 3 p.m. at Comcast Center. The Wolverines beat No. 15 Reservoir, 64-57, in the other semifinal Thursday.
Feeling right at home Thursday, the Millers jumped out to a 16-2 advantage over the Hawks from Frederick County. All five Milford Mill starters scored less than six minutes into the game.
Urbana (21-5) rallied to cut Milford Mill's lead to 34-26 at the half, but the Millers pulled away in the second half with Jenifer scoring 10 points in the third quarter. With a 55-39 lead after three quarters, Milford Mill didn't face a threat from the Hawks in the fourth.
Milford Mill first-year coach Mike Silverman was pleased with the fast start, something with which the Millers have struggled on occasion this season.
"I thought we came out with a lot of energy, excited about the opportunity to play on this floor and the guys did a great job of capitalizing on open opportunities, making the extra pass and trusting each other to win this game," he said.
Watkins, who scored eight points in the second quarter to help offset Urbana's push, said the Millers' ultimate goal hasn't been reached yet. The Millers won back-to-back state titles in 2010 and 2011 before falling to eventual state champion Patterson in last year's North regional final.
"Knowing that we're one game away, it's OK to celebrate because we've made it this far, but I don't want to get too happy because the road to success is not over yet," Watkins said. "We still have one more to go. We're going to keep working hard. We have practice tomorrow, and we're still going to grind. … When we're up on the scoreboard [on Saturday], that's when we can really celebrate."
The Millers shot 62.5 percent (10 of 16) from 3-point range in the game. Junior forward Allen Costley scored 12 points and added nine rebounds for Milford Mill.
Kyle Singer scored 19 points to lead Urbana, which was making its second appearance in the state semifinals in school history.
(at University of Maryland's Comcast Center)
4 Milford Mill 78 , Urbana 53
MM – Jackson 4, Watkins 18, Jenifer 20, Lee 9, Costley 12 , Williams 8, Alston 2, Byrd 3, Outlaw 2. Totals: 37 14-18 78.
U – Utt 15, Singer 19, Eversull 4, Ambush 4, Wharton 6, Stein 3, Norris 2. Totals: 29 2-7 53.
Half: MM, 34-26Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun