OWINGS MILLS – Remember the old public service announcement that asked: "It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?"
In the case of the Severn girls basketball team Sunday afternoon at Stevenson University, the question was more like this: "It's crunch time in the IAAM B Conference championship. Do you know where your leading scorer is?"
The answer for much of the second half of the team's heart-wrenching, 48-44, loss to second-seeded St. John's Catholic Prep was a resounding "no" as a mix of strong man-to-man defense played by the Vikings and an inability of her teammates to get Maddie McDaniel the ball left the Admirals a win short of their second league championship in three years.
McDaniel once again led the Admirals with a game-best 15 points and 13 rebounds, two blocks and two steals. However, Severn's failure to get the ball to McDaniel coincided with a roughly five-minute scoring drought that turned a 32-21 lead for the Admirals with 4:42 left in the third quarter into a 35-32 deficit early in the fourth quarter.
"Somewhere or other we lost our energy," said Severn coach Chuck Miller, whose squad was seeking its sixth B Conference crown. "We were doing all of the things that got us here and then all of sudden, we lost our energy. I'm not sure what happened. All of sudden we stopped running our offense and started throwing up one-on-one stuff."
Certainly part of that crucial swing in momentum came due to St. John's stifling man-to-man defense. The defense was born out of a little bit of creativity by Vikings coach Brian Martin and a little bit of desperation as McDaniel sandwiched a pair of layups around back-to-back 3-pointers by Maya Harris (12 points, six steals) and Jorryn Avery for the 11-point Severn advantage.
"We hadn't really played man against them in a long time," said Martin, whose squad used a variety of zone defenses in the first two-plus quarters in attempt to slow the Admirals." I thought maybe they wouldn't be expecting that (and) we really didn't have a choice. They started hitting some shots and we were in foul trouble and I just put my athletes (on Severn's players). Our kids executed perfectly with what we decided to do."
Despite its lengthy scoring woes, Severn was able to forge a 36-36 tie with 5:18 left on a running jump shot by Avery. The Admirals then took a 42-40 lead with 3:38 remaining on two free throws by McDaniel, her first points since the 4:42 mark of the third quarter on one of just a couple of touches.
However, a 3-pointer by Paige Holston and just enough free throws allowed the Vikings to pull away for their first B Conference crown since 2001.
"I think we got in the mindset that we've got it; we've got to win," said McDaniel, who will play lacrosse at James Madison University next year. "We let down our guard a little bit and St. John's took advantage of that. We really wanted to come out with a win, but I know they can do it next year.
"I could not be more proud of this team,'' she added. "We overcame all adversity. Not only did I not think our team was going to be good, we had so many injuries to key players … But somehow we overcame all of that and ended up here today."
Many of St. John's free throws in the final minutes came through numerous offensive rebounds that kept possessions alive or through defensive rebounds that continuously limited Severn to one look at the hoop on its offensive turns.
"I still think the game came down to rebounding and they out rebounded us," Miller said. "They were getting three or four shots and we getting our one."
St. John's (16-10)9101415-48 Severn (17-9)11111012-44
St. John's (48)
Ricketts 0 0-0 0; Jow 1 0-0 2; P. Holston 2(2) 0-0 6; Trdina 3 1-3 7; M. Holston 1 0-0 2; Hill 2 2-2 6; Stafford 3 1-2 7; Keita 4 3-4 11; Clayton 2 3-7 7. TOTALS: 185(2) 10-18 48
Avery 3(1) 2-2 9; Munroe 2 0-0 4; Kirchenheiter 0 2-2 2; Cortes 0 2-4 2; Harris 4(2) 2-2 12; Bradshaw 0 0-0 0; McDaniel 6 3-6 15. TOTALS: 15(3) 11-16 44.