COLLEGE PARK -- The Randallstown Rams spent most of this season living on the edge. Yesterday was no different.
Trailing by one point with 46 seconds left in the Class 3A state championship, the Rams (25-1) gambled again -- and won.
Junior point guard Troy Lewis stole the ball from Thomas Johnson's Nathan Quay with 17 seconds left and his easy lay-up gave the Rams a 58-57 win over the Patriots (24-2) at Cole Field House.
"Coach [Kim] Rivers told me that we had a foul to give, and I saw he had a lazy dribble," said Lewis. "I just went for it, and I was faster than he was."
Thomas Johnson coach Tom Dickman said, "It looked like Nathan had already dribbled past the guy. He just ended up with it."
The Rams were led by Lance Anderson's 15 points. Tom Praesel led the Patriots with 19 points.
The win gave the Rams their first state championship. The team had made five previous trips to Cole Field House since 1980, and never had advanced past the semifinals.
The victory capped a Randallstown season in which it came from behind to beat Overlea in the Baltimore County championship game, C. Milton Wright in the regional championship, and Thomas Johnson in the state final.
"I feel so happy for my kids," said Rivers, in his first year as coach. "When I came to Randallstown, I didn't know what to expect. They really came through for me."
The game was a contrast in style, with Randallstown playing full-court run-and-gun, and Thomas Johnson playing a controlled half-court game. No team had more than a five-point lead in the game.
With the score tied at 54, Thomas Johnson's Jason Williams hit a long three-pointer to give the Patriots a 57-54 lead with 2:56 left.
Randallstown's Raymond Smith, who scored the game-winner against Overlea in the county title game, scored on a lay-up to cut the deficit to one, 57-56.
The Rams squandered their next two possessions, missing lay-ups. After Smith missed with 46 seconds left, the Patriots attempted to run out the clock. When Thomas Johnson got the ball across the midcourt stripe, the Patriots got the ball into Quay's hands near midcourt. Lewis spun to the right and stole the ball in mid-stride and scored the basket to put the Rams ahead by one.
The Patriots called a timeout with three seconds left, but could manage only a shot by Williams from near midcourt as time expired, setting off a wild Randallstown celebration.
"There are no words to describe how I feel right now," said Anderson, a senior. "All year we worked for this, and it finally paid off."
What also paid off was one final gamble. Lewis, who had a game-high four steals for the Rams, helped force 20 turnovers.
"Turnovers were a critical part of the game," said Dickman. "We lost the ball too many times against their physical, aggressive play."