Hammond coach Joe Russo was a little disappointed that his No. 2-ranked Bears gave up 51 points in winning their regional semifinal game Thursday.
Last night, Russo was much happier.
The top-seeded Golden Bears turned up an already stingy defense and rolled over second-seeded Chopticon, 64-34, to win their fourth straight Class 2A South regional championship.
The Bears (21-3), who have won two of the past three Class 2A state titles, return to UMBC Friday afternoon for a state semifinal game.
A win there sends them to Saturday's 1 p.m. championship, where the Bears would try to become the first Howard County team to repeat since Mount Hebron won back-to-back titles in 1990 and 1991.
For visiting Chopticon (17-5), which has never won a state title and made its only appearance in the final four 20 years ago, the season ended in a blowout.
"I'm really impressed with the defense they play," said Braves coach Terry Mumau, whose team never got closer than 15 points in the second half. "We were scoring 55-60 points and they held us under 40. That's a good team."
Mumau was most impressed with the job Tiki Nicholson did on Braves point guard Stacey Briscoe. A senior who averaged 17.2 points, Briscoe managed eight -- five of them in the last four minutes.
"She really frustrated Stacy," said Mumau. "She's not seen a defensive player like that all year. When she didn't score right away and started turning it over, she got frustrated."
The Bears' man-to-man defense, also with strong efforts from guards Tameka Harrison and Brandy Peaker, forced 23 Chopticon turnovers.
Many of them turned into easy transition buckets. Forwards Rene Hines (16 points) and Kellye Townsend (11 points) had little trouble getting their shots inside while Nicholson (15 points) and Harrison (11 points) drove the lane and hit from the perimeter.
"It was easy to get open," said Townsend. "It just depended on getting the ball inside because their guards were really good on the outside. They fronted us and double-teamed us a lot."
Last night's first half was almost a carbon copy of Thursday night's semifinal win over Fairmont Heights. The Bears broke out to a big lead by finding the inside openings.
Townsend scored seven in the first 2 1/2 minutes. Her follow shot gave Hammond a 9-3 lead and the Bears extended it to 19-8 by the end of the quarter.
After a brief letdown, the Bears' transition game kicked into high gear early in the second half. Nicholson's pick off and layup followed by a Hines steal that turned into a Peaker-assisted layup for Harrison gave Hammond a 25-10 lead.
By the time Harrison added a putback, Nicole Owe found Peaker for a layup and Harrison hit a 20-footer, the Bears led by 20.