Randallstown girls basketball coach Ron Isaacs called his team "the Cinderella team" of the state Class 2A state semifinals, but the Rams did not have a great time at the ball.
Isaacs' youngsters stuck close for a while before Middletown's combination of outside shooting and inside strength overwhelmed them and powered the Knights to a 60-27 victory at UMBC's RAC Arena.
The Rams (22-7) had their only leads in the first quarter. Mariah Byam's follow shot and Essence Stinnette's free throw gave them a 9-8 edge, but that would be their last lead as Middletown scored 12 straight points. Facing a swarming man-to-man defense from the Frederick County school, the Rams wouldn't score again for more than 5 1/2 minutes.
Junior guard Jess Racz hit a pair of 3-pointers to spark the Knights, who ran their lead to 20-9 and led 22-11 at the half. Racz, a 47-percent 3-point shooter, exceeded her season average of 8.4 points midway through the second quarter. She led all scorers at the half with 12 and finished with 18.
The Rams, who were supposed to play Middletown in a holiday tournament but were snowed out, struggled to run their offense against the Knights' quick defense.
"Middletown, they had a very good defense and they played very hard," Byam said. "It was hard for us to swing the ball around and get inside the paint."
After the break, the Knights (20-7) made sure the Rams didn't rally by scoring the first six points of the second half to run their lead to 28-11 on Caitlin McLister's short putback.
Middletown, who got 19 points from McClister, just kept rolling. Outrebounding the Rams, 41-23, and scoring 26 points in the paint, the Knights shot 47.9 percent from the field.
"Randallstown is going to be a good team. They're young," Middletown coach Bill Miskell said. "We saw them over Christmas and we knew they didn't really have a lot of people inside, so we figured we could get on the boards and we could hit some outside shots. The guards did a great job getting started early, hitting some big shots to get us in a comfort level."
On Saturday, Middletown will try to add a fifth state title to its trophy case at 1 p.m. at UMBC when it meets Calvert, which beat No. 14 Patterson Mill, 61-42, in the other semifinal..
Some of these Middletown players were on the team that lost in the state title game two years ago, but Randallstown hadn't been to the state semifinals since 1994.
Junior point guard Byam led the Rams with nine points and five rebounds.
Isaacs and his players said they would use this state tournament experience as a building block.
"We weren't expected to be here," Isaacs said. "We made it, and on a positive note [starters Byam, Stinnette, D'Anna Dawson and Alira Gourdine] are underclassmen, so Randallstown's future's looking bright. Next year, we'll be back."
R—Byam 9, Stinnette 7, Dawson 2, Jones 4, Fakuade 1, Gourdine 2. Totals 9 9-17 27.
M—Mullins 8, McLister 19, Racz 18, Bussard 2, George 6, Tolino 3, Stottlemyer 4. Totals 23 10-18 60.
Half: M 22-11.