A sophomore was taking some big shots in the fourth quarter. A freshman was running the offense.
Arundel coach Lee Rogers had shown faith in his underclassmen all season, no matter how young. Why should yesterday have been any different?
Even if it was the Class 4A state semifinals.
The No. 3-ranked and second-seeded Wildcats wavered some in the third quarter, then regrouped to defeat third-seeded Montgomery Blair, 40-32, and remain undefeated going into tomorrow's 3 p.m. final at UMBC.
Arundel (25-0), making its first appearance in the state playoffs, will meet No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Western, a 62-49 winner over Oxon Hill in yesterday's other semifinal. The Doves, who won their first title last season, are making their third consecutive trip to the final.
Only one player, junior forward Jen Mottar (10 points), scored in double figures for the Wildcats, but there were other contributors. Junior Shannon Noon and sophomore LaChelle McHenry each had eight points. Junior Chavonne Hammond was limited to seven points, almost 10 below her season's average, but she pulled down 18 rebounds and blocked seven shots.
Four of McHenry's points came in the last quarter, which began with Arundel in front, 24-22. Freshman Sherice Proctor and McHenry hit from the outside to stretch the lead to six, and after the Blazers got within two, McHenry struck again.
Hammond and Mottar each made a free throw, the second coming with 4:28 remaining, to give Arundel a 32-26 lead. Blair got within four, but Hammond followed her own miss, blocked a shot, then converted a pass from Proctor with 2:22 left. Noon made a baseline jumper, and Proctor made two free throws with 36 seconds to go.
Blair (22-3), which had won 12 straight, went ahead for the first time, 18-17, with 6:17 left in the third quarter. The lead increased to 22-18 before two free throws from Noon, a follow by Mottar and a basket by Noon off a feed from Proctor underneath moved the Wildcats back in front with 45 seconds remaining in the quarter.
"We knew we had to start making our shots, play good defense and play our game," said McHenry, who also contributed three steals and two assists. "We're a very controlled team and we take everything in stride."
That certainly was true of Proctor, a 5-foot-4 guard who averaged 6.6 points coming off the bench. She played much of the second half and seemed to steady the Wildcats during the most crucial times. She also pitched in with four points, two assists and two steals.
Hammond had to leave the game midway through the third quarter when the middle finger of her left hand started bleeding, but the Wildcats held together until her return in the fourth.
"They weren't expecting that, without Chavonne in there, we could maintain," Rogers said. The Blazers were led by senior guard Beverly Laryea with 10 points. Junior forward Peppi Browne added nine points and nine rebounds.
Blair was fortunate to still be in contention after one half. It shot 4-for-25 from the field, made eight turnovers and fell behind, 15-5 midway through the second quarter. It then went on an 8-0 run to close the half, including back-to-back three-pointers by Laryea.