Old Mill girls basketball coach Rick Smith probably didn't have enough game balls to go around after the No. 4 Patriots' big finish Saturday against No. 3 Roland Park in the Public vs. Private Challenge mixer at McDonogh.
Brandi Hall hit the game-winner, a 3-pointer from the corner with nine seconds left, to give the foul-plagued Patriots a 56-54 victory, but Alayshia Dailey and Imani Afi also played big roles in the final minute and a half.
"I was just like, 'Focus,' " Hall said of her final shot. "We played so hard to get to this point, and there were doubters, but we overcame. I think my team just fought to stay in the game the whole time, and I was excited to make that shot for my team."
Smith was upset with the officiating all game long and even was assessed a technical foul for her complaints. There were 22 fouls called on the Patriots and seven on the Reds (13-2), who scored 20 points from the free-throw line. In the second half, Old Mill had seven fouls before the Reds had one.
Roland Park's Jaia Alexander hit two free throws with 1:34 to go as the Reds took a 53-48 lead, but the Patriots (11-0) forced a couple of turnovers and rallied.
"You can't have your head down in a tough moment like that," said Dailey, who scored all nine of her points in the fourth quarter. "If it's a close game, you have to bring your team up. Me, as a leader, I had to keep my composure there, keep the team up, because if your head's down, that's just going to mess up your mental focus."
Perhaps the key play of the final stretch came when the Reds tried to inbound the ball and Imani Afi stole it at midcourt. Dailey converted a three-point play to pull within 53-51 with 1:06 to go.
After inbounding the ball, the Reds turned it over again, and Dailey emerged from a scrum with possession. Dailey then made a quick move to slice through the lane for a layup to tie it with 32 seconds left.
Alexander, who finished with 20 points, hit the back end of two free throws to take back the lead, 54-53, with 31 seconds to go.
Roland Park coach Scott Buckley said later that he wanted his team to foul on Old Mill's next possession, because the Reds had three fouls to give and he wanted to disrupt the Patriots offense. They never fouled.
With 18 seconds left, Smith called a timeout. Nine seconds later, Hall had a good look from the corner and fired off the game-winner.
Smith praised his players' composure amid foul trouble.
"That showed the maturity of our kids that we did have on the court," said Smith, whose 6-foot-1 center, Briana Ward, fouled out. "They played hard, they didn't give up, and that's some of the stuff we talked about on the way up here, before the game and at halftime. We didn't come here to do like we did last year and not play well. We came here with the thought that we wanted to show that we could play with anybody."
Buckley, whose team used a 9-2 run to open the fourth quarter and take a 43-39 lead, thought his team did the opposite.
"Complete meltdown. There's no other way to say it," Buckley said. "We're up five with the ball. We run an inbounds play that we're pretty happy with. 'Do not throw it long if she's covered,' and we made a poor decision. It happens [with] our young kids."
This was the Patriots' second win this season over an Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference opponent. They defeated St. Vincent Pallotti, 55-54, a month ago.
It won't get easier for the Reds. They return to McDonogh on Monday to play the No. 1 and two-time defending A Conference champion Eagles in a rematch of last year's A Conference final.
The Patriots, who got 12 points apiece from Kaneshia Afi and Rebecca Lee, next play Tuesday at Southern.