Emily Moore's 16th birthday wasn't sweet, but she made up for it last night.
Moore, who turned 17 yesterday, scored 19 points and converted a crucial three-point play late in the game to lead No. 7 Howard to a 65-61 victory over host No. 12 Walbrook in a Class 3A, Region III semifinal.
The fourth-seeded Lions (18-6) will travel to the winner of tonight's Carver-Northwestern game in the region final tomorrow night.
"This year, my birthday is a lot better than last year," said Moore. The Lions were eliminated in last season's regional semifinals by eventual Class 3A state champion Linganore on Moore's birthday.
Moore ensured that she and her teammates would have a reason to celebrate with 15 seconds remaining and Howard clinging to a 62-59 lead.
Howard sophomore Mona Jackson (14 points) missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Moore grabbed the rebound and scored as she was fouled by Walbrook's Lakeisha Dukes. Moore's free throw gave the Lions a six-point lead and sealed the win.
It was a hard-fought victory for Howard, which built a 50-37 lead early in the fourth quarter before top-seeded Walbrook (15-5) rallied to tie at 55 on a three-pointer by Da- Shawn Coleman (19 points, four three-pointers) with 3:27 remaining.
The Warriors' 18-5 fourth-quarter run was led by sophomore center Jamee Greenwood, who scored 10 of her 16 points and pulled down four of her 15 rebounds during the spurt.
Walbrook's comeback brought back bad memories for Howard coach Craig O'Connell. Last Thursday, his team blew an 18-point halftime lead to fourth-ranked Hammond in a 50-48 loss.
"When we led by 13, we started doing the same things we did against Hammond," O'Connell said. "We panicked and started rushing shots when we didn't have to."
But the Lions regained their composure. Jackson made a three-pointer with 2:34 left to put Howard ahead to stay, 58-55.
Walbrook later pulled to 61-59 on Coleman's three-pointer with 33 seconds left, before Camille Powell made the front end of a one-and-one to give the Lions a three-point lead.
On the Warriors' next possession, Coleman was again left alone outside the three-point line, but point guard Tina Fauntleroy chose to drive the lane. She put up an off-balance shot that missed badly, and Jackson grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Tresa Silcott added 13 points for Howard.