Howard's Thandi Howell didn't think the shot would go in.
Howard coach Craig O'Connell didn't think there was enough time on the clock.
Fortunately for the Lions, they both were wrong.
Howell, a freshman guard, put back a missed shot just before the buzzer sounded to give Howard a 46-45 victory over No. 15 Centennial in a Class 3A East region semifinal game last night at Centennial.
The Lions (12-12) advance to the region final for the fourth straight year and will play host to Broadneck, a 40-28 winner over Atholton, tomorrow.
Howard has played in five of the last six region finals, and this will be its first at home. It won the region title in 1993 and the region and state titles in 1994. The Lions lost to Mount Hebron in last year's region final.
Centennial, which beat No. 9 Mount Hebron Tuesday, was hurt by poor free-throw shooting down the stretch. The Eagles (17-7) made only eight of 19 attempts in the game, and three of eight in the final quarter.
Chanelle Carter, who led Howard with 21 points, converted two one-and-one free throws to give the Lions a 44-41 lead with 48 seconds. Centennial's Michelle Kincaid tied the game with 27 seconds left with a three-pointer.
Carter missed a short baseline jumper and Centennial center Meredith Price grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Price, who suffered a bloody nose with 3:37 left in the third quarter and sat out six minutes, 33 seconds, went to the line with seven seconds. O'Connell called two time-outs before Price, who already had missed three free throws in the quarter, attempted to put the Eagles in front.
Price's first shot hit the front of the rim and rolled in for a one-point Centennial lead. The second missed, and Howard's Megan Boehm rebounded and dribbled up the right side of the court.
"I saw there was about four seconds left and I just threw it up," said Boehm, who shot well beyond the three-point arc. "I was trying to make it, but I figured if I didn't, somebody would get it. And look who did. Little Thandi, our point guard, gets it and she buries it."
Boehm's shot sailed over the rim and into the hands of Howell, who was four feet from the basket all alone on the left baseline. She got off the shot, the buzzer sounded, and the ball fell through.
"When I put it up I didn't think it was going to go in," said Howell, whose winning shot was her only basket of the game. "I thought it was short."
Said O'Connell: "When I saw it go into Thandi's hands, I didn't think there was enough time. You could tell Megan's shot wasn't going in. It just so happens we had somebody there and they didn't."
Howard, which lost twice to the Eagles during the regular season, employed full-court pressure against Centennial for the first time and it was effective.
"We decided that we were going to make them play full court and try to score off our defense," said O'Connell. "We were able to do that."
Centennial coach Dave Greenberg said he expected Howard to press.
"It wasn't as if we weren't prepared for it," Greenberg said. "We just didn't do the things we needed to do to win. We lost our poise for a while. We didn't shoot the ball well and we didn't make our free throws. We played hard, but we didn't play as well as we're capable of playing."