The way Andrea Romich saw it, Oakland Mills girls basketball team had several things to accomplish when it took the floor Thursday at Catonsville Community College for the 3A state semifinals.
The Scorpions wanted to beat Catonsville and advance to their first state championship game since 1977.
They also wanted to win again for teammate Stefanie Magro, the senior point guard who, four days after an appendectomy, had come to watch the Scorpions go after the first state title in school history. And they wanted to answer the Catonsville fans who taunted them duringpregame warm-ups. Several hours earlier, Catonsville's boys team hadeliminated Oakland Mills by 22 points in the 3A semifinals at College Park.
The Scorpions accomplished all missions by racing to a 19-5 first-quarter lead, then cruising to a 64-39 victory against the overmatched Comets.
The victory sent Oakland Mills (23-2) after the 3A state championship last night against DuVall (Prince George's County), 71-50 winners over Northern (Calvert County) in Thursday's othersemifinal. The championship game was played after The Howard County Sun's deadline.
"This tournament is for Stef," said Romich, a senior forward who scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds and had two assists. "We came out and showed them (Catonsville) what we're about inthe first few minutes. Then I knew we wouldn't lose. It was also a nice payback for what their boys' team did to ours."
The Scorpions came into the game confident in the knowledge that Atholton, the last-place team in the county this year and one that Oakland Mills had handled easily twice during the regular season, had whipped Catonsvilleby 23 points in the Liberty Tournament in December. Still, Romich said the Scorpions did their best to block out that result.
"We couldn't get too cocky about it. Teams improve," she said. "We beat Liberty badly early in the season, and they gave us a pretty good game in the regionals. I think we all knew we would win, but we also knew we had to come out and play hard right away."
Oakland Mills did just that. Relying on their full-court man-to-man defense, the Scorpions forced many of Catonsville's (20-3) 19 first-half turnovers and attacked the Comets' soft zone defense with ease to break the game open early.
Oakland Mills shot 26-for-55 from the field (47.3 percent), largely on the strength of a string of layups and other short-range shots.
Senior Mia Dammen, the point guard in Magro's absence, led theway with 15 points on 7-for-15 shooting, while adding nine steals, seven assists and four rebounds. Senior forward Christine Copeland dominated the inside with 13 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Senior guard Katrina Overton added 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Senior guard Suzanne Willis added seven points.
Amy Kuehl led Catonsvillewith eight points and five rebounds. Amy Evans followed with eight points. Jenny Anderson had six points and six rebounds, and Jill Altshuler had seven points.
The game began in typical Scorpions style. Dammen came up with two steals and made three layups in the first 2 minutes, 30 seconds, while Romich added her first layup of the night, as Oakland Mills jumped to an 8-0 lead. With 5:34 left in the openingquarter, Catonsville called its first time out.
The Scorpions forced eight more turnovers in the period, outscoring the Comets, 11-5, after the time out. Romich, Dammen and Copeland each scored outside shots to make it 14-2 with 2:09 left in the quarter. Then Suzanne Willis scored the Scorpions' last five points of the quarter.
Willis' three-pointer from the right corner at the first-quarter buzzer gave Oakland Mills a 19-5 lead. The Scorpions increased the margin to 33-15 at halftime.
Catonsville rallied briefly in the third quarter, twice cutting the lead to 12, but the Scorpions went on a 9-3 run in the last four minutes to take a 46-28 lead at the end of the period.