Meade guard Imani Bailey looked as though she could barely stand up in the final minutes of last night's game at Annapolis, but the senior fought off a sore right hip to lead the No. 7 Mustangs to a 65-58 victory, securing first place inAnne Arundel County.
In the two-minute, 10-2 run that finished the game, Bailey scored six points, had two steals and dished out an assist. She said the hip has been bothering her for about three weeks, although she could obviously play through the pain.
The No. 12 Panthers led for the first 19:39 of the game, but the Mustangs (13-5, 12-1 county) had big finishes in the third and fourth quarters to end an 11-game Annapolis winning streak.
"They gave us a run and we went into halftime and told each other, 'We can't afford to lose if you all want to make it to another (county) championship,'" said Bailey."So we all just put our heads together and played like a team and never gave up."
The Panthers (12-4, 10-3) could have tied the Mustangs for first place in the county, and it appeared they would after Alyssa Cooper's 3-pointer gave them a 56-55 lead with 3:03 to go. Meade then forced four turnovers,converting on three of them. First, Bailey stole the ball and made a break-away layup only slightly contested by Panthers' guard Maya Butler, who had four fouls.
Butler, the Panthers' primary ball-handler, did foul Bailey on her next shot attempt and went to the bench with 1:41 to go. Bailey, who finished with 22 points, hit both free throws for a 59-56 lead.
The Panthers pulled within 59-58 on Latifah Butler's layup – the last of 30 points for the 5-foot-9 forward who went 14-for-15 from the free-throw line and also had 21 rebounds.
But Diamond Henson answered for the Mustangs for a 61-58 led with 59 seconds to go. Bailey added two more free throws – she hit 15-of-20 – then stole the ball and assisted Chenelle Witty for a layup with four seconds remaining.
Meade's pressure on the ball gave the Panthers trouble in the final minutes and Annapolis managed just two shots in the last two-and-a-half minutes.
"I think they got tired," Annapolis first-year coach Danielle Bozeman said. "I think Maya fouling out took an awful lot out of them and I think that mentally they got a little tired. We were able to make plays throughout the entire game and then at the end, they just got tired."
The victory has the defending county champs in good position with three games left to repeat their title and make another appearance in the District V championship against the Howard County champ. After losing to Glenelg last season, the Mustangs would like another chance against the Gladiators, who were in first place going into last night's games.