In Friday night's pregame huddle, Milford Mill's girls basketball team let loose with their best impression of the Ravens' "Seven Nation Army" cheer and then emulated their football heroes by taking a big first-half lead and holding off a second-half run from Catonsville.
The No. 6 Millers used their quickness and speed to fuel second- and fourth-quarter bursts to run by the Comets, 65-36, and clinch the Baltimore County Class 4A-3A division title. They will go after their second straight county championship on Feb. 19 against the 2A-1A division winner.
On Friday night, the visiting Millers (19-2, 10-0 division) made their break with a 16-2 second-quarter run, converting seven of the Comets' 11 turnovers in the first 5:52 to run their lead to 33-13.
"We put more pressure on the ball and stopped the cuts that were going back door," said Millers guard Dionna White, who finished with 14 points, six steals and five assists.
Catonsville coach Mike Mohler called four timeouts during that Millers' run because the Comets weren't running their offense and weren't attacking the basket. Weak passes played right to the Millers' strengths and Milford Mill had eight steals in the run — three each by White and Deja McKenzie.
"We turned up the heat defensively. We thrive on that. That's our ticket," Milford Mill coach DeToiya McAliley said. "We get a lot of energy from defense, so they saw that they needed to turn it up and that changed the whole complexion of the game."
Catonsville (17-3, 8-1) rallied to within 12 points in the third quarter, sparked by Maddie Hunt's 3-pointer in the opening seconds. With 2:59 left in the quarter, Taylor Barton's back-door basket assisted by Hunt capped a 6-0 run that cut the lead to 38-26.
But the Millers just turned it up again, converting four more turnovers against the Comets, who turned the ball over 40 times in the game. In the last 2:36 of the third quarter, White hit two runners, a short jumper and fed Qierra Murray to run the lead to 50-28.
"First of all, they're really good," Mohler said, "and the fear is can we stay focused for 32 minutes and not have a breakdown. When we got it in the third quarter to 12, I probably should have called a timeout and not let that run happen, but I only had one left. [Milford's] quickness makes up for any defensive lapse they make."
The Millers, who have won 19 straight games since falling to No. 1 Aberdeen and No. 8 St. Frances during the first week of the season, had four players score in double figures, led by Murray with 21. White and Kelli Smoot scored 14 each and McKenzie added 10.
Barton led the Comets, who won their last of three straight county titles in 2010, with 13 points and eight rebounds.
MM—Murray 21, Smoot 14, White 14, McKenzie 10, Lewis 2, Hutchinson 2, Thompson 2. Totals 27 11-19 65.
C—Hunt 4, Milani 8, Barton 13, McTaggart 1, Gast 2, Wichhart 4, Nonn 2, Nazarian 2. Totals 11 11-18 36.
Half: 34-17.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun