Milford Mill coach DeToiya McAliley figured her team was in line for a reward following its perfect regular season — a first-round playoff patsy wrapped neatly in a bow.
Instead, the No. 12 Millers drew a No. 10 City team with title aspirations of its own, and on Friday Milford Mill needed some late-game heroics just to squeak by.
Senior Sierra Naylor nailed the go-ahead 3-pointer with 53 seconds left, and the host Millers held on for a 48-45 win in the first round of the Class 3A North regional playoffs.
"At the draw, I said, 'Ok, we've got a No. 2 seed. That's great, but who are we going to wind up with?' " McAliley said. "They said City College, and I said, 'Wow … that's a great present for having a great record.' I told [my players], 'We can't change it, so let's get ready to play.'"
The Millers (23-0) advance to Monday's second round, when host either Patterson or Perry Hall at 7 p.m. They are aiming for their second state title in school history, and their first since 2005.
For much of this one, however, it was City (17-7) that had the upper hand.
Led by sophomore point guard Dyzhaney Burton (game-high 17 points), the Knights controlled play early, building 26-19 lead by late in the second quarter.
But once Milford Mill began to apply more pressure after halftime — at one point forcing five straight turnovers as part of a 10-0 run — the Millers quickly changed the complexion of the game.
"We got a little bit stagnant on our presses," McAliley said. "We're a pressing team, so what we had to do is change up — show different looks. I think the diversity in the presses sparked our girls defensively and offensively, as well."
Led by athletic freshman point guard Dionna White (13 points), the Millers held City to 22 percent shooting in the second half, including 0-for-11 from 3-point range.
"A shot here or two and it could've gone either way," said City coach George Petrides, whose team was coming off Wednesday's loss to rival Poly in the Baltimore City Division I final. "They came up big when they had to."
City crawled back into the game late and took a 45-43 lead when Burton sank a pair of foul shots with 2:11 left. But Milford Mill pulled it out with big shots down the stretch, including Naylor's 3-pointer that rolled around the rim and fell in with 53 seconds left.
"I knew it was crunch-time and I was wide open," Naylor said. "I had to take a three for the team. I had to do what I had to do, so I did it."
Moments later, White's fast-break layup off an inbound play put the Millers up by three. White then knocked away City's inbound attempt with 2 seconds left to seal the win.
Class 3A North Region first round
No. 12 Milford Mill 48, No. 10 City 45
C — Burton 17, Ford 8, Bell 1, Bea 5, Sydnor 8, Bates 4, Gladden 2. Totals: 18 6-15 45.
MM — Jones 3, White 13, Aguon-Rayford 3, Thompson 8, McDonald 7, Lewis 8, Naylor 6. Totals: 17 9-20 48.
Half: City, 27-22.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun