It took just three minutes yesterday for Milford Mill seniors Yolanda Matthews and Ebonie Richardson to erase three years of frustrations.
With host Milford Mill trailing by seven and just over three minutes left in its Class 1A, Region II title game against Wilde Lake, the frontcourt tandem sparked a game-ending 13-3 run to give the Millers a 54-51 win, sending them to their first state semifinal in school history.
"I've been waiting three years for this," said Richardson. "This is the happiest day of my life."
The Millers (17-4) will play in the Class 1A state semifinals on Friday at UMBC.
For first-year coach Pam Wright, Milford's late rally after 3 1/2 quarters of erratic play made the win extra sweet.
DTC "I felt very fortunate to be only down by a few points," said Wright. "We were playing terrible, and the score wasn't indicative. I was very nervous, wondering if we could pull it off."
Matthews, however, soon helped ease her coach's nerves, making five of six foul shots and a 10-foot jumper in the final 3:02.
"They were playing aggressive so we had to be just as aggressive," said Matthews, who scored a game-high 24 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. "I knew I had to make the free throws. They were freebees, and I had to make them if we were going to have a chance."
Richardson also scored two of her 12 points and took control on the boards in the final minutes, and teammate Shanell Driver hit the last of her three three-pointers to help cut the Wildecats' lead to two points.
For Wilde Lake, which held a lead in every quarter -- including a 51-49 edge with 1:08 left -- a breakdown on offense late in the game proved to be the difference.
"We got a little bit sloppy," said Wilde Lake coach Kelly Rosati, whose team ended its season at 13-9. "Instead of slowing the ball down and playing our game, we started running with it. We lost our composure a little."
Kim Driessen and Tracy Stefan each scored 15 to lead the Wildecats, who shot 27 percent from the field and made seven of 15 foul shots.
Their early shooting problems cost them. Though the Millers couldn't get much going on offense and committed 23 turnovers through the first three quarters, the Wildecats led by just two to start the final quarter.
"The girls didn't give up," said Wright, a former assistant at Woodlawn who also will be making her first trip to the Final Four. "They took it upon themselves to win it at the end. This is really a special win. It's just a sweet, sweet victory."