This time, Randallstown didn't blink.
Almost a year after suffering their only loss of last season, the No. 1 Rams returned to No. 6 Douglass yesterday and dethroned the state Class 3A champions, 73-70, in the North regional title game before a raucous audience.
"It's always fun to get a big win against a great team," said senior guard Levi Stukes, who scored a game-high 26 points. "We knew all week we had to show everybody why we had the No. 1 spot. While everybody doubted us, we stayed together and came out with the victory."
The Rams (22-1) earned a berth in the state semifinals Thursday afternoon at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center. They will meet South region champ Chopticon, a 77-64 winner over Thomas Stone.
Stukes, a reigning All-Metro performer, was a picture of dejection in the locker room after the loss to Douglass in last year's regional final. His comments earlier that week became bulletin-board material for the Ducks, who ended Randallstown's hopes for a second straight state championship.
Last night, the Rams gained another measure of respect, not revenge.
Even though the school had climbed to its first No. 1 ranking, many thought Randallstown, which has dominated Baltimore County boys basketball the past several seasons, wasn't deserving.
The Rams might have answered some of those critics last night, withstanding a Douglass rally after building a 17-point second-half advantage.
Senior forward Terrance Breaux had 18 points and eight rebounds for Randallstown, and Jamel Raymond came off the bench to contribute 14 and eight rebounds. Jermaine Bolden led Douglass (21-3) with 21 points and six steals.
"Perseverance was the one thing we talked about this week," said Randallstown coach Kim Rivers. "We knew it would take perseverance because this was a heavyweight fight, and it was 15 rounds. I think we won this decision in the 15th."
With 15 seconds remaining, Randallstown center Tommy Breaux (four blocked shots) hit a free throw to give his team a 73-70 lead. The Ducks pushed the ball down court, but a Randallstown player deflected a pass out of bounds with eight seconds left.
After a Douglass timeout, Daryl Clark inbounded the ball to Devine Morris on the perimeter. Morris (17 points), who kept the Ducks' winning streak alive earlier in the season with a game-winning shot against Lake Clifton, missed a game-tying three-point shot that hit the front of the rim.
The Rams gained possession and ran out the remaining seconds, securing their 57th victory in their past 59 games.
"We played our best. We outhustled them in the second half," said Morris, a 5-foot-8 junior guard. "But in crunch time, we didn't finish or at least get the game into overtime."
The Ducks hoped to defend their city and state championships and produce a second straight unbeaten season, but they've seen all three ambitions end the past several weeks.
Douglass, whose 46-game winning streak was broken by Dunbar last month, lost in the final seconds to Lake Clifton in the city title game last week after building a double-digit lead.
Last night, Douglass was within 70-67 with 77 seconds left after a layup by Morris, then missed five of six three-point tries over the next 47 seconds.
Raymond missed two free throws for Randallstown, but Breaux got a crucial rebound and Stukes was fouled. Stukes converted both shots in the one-and-one for a 72-68 lead with 20 seconds remaining.
Bolden was then fouled on a three-point attempt and made two free throws.
R-Stukes 26, Carter-Bey 5, To. Breaux 8, Ter. Breaux 18, Raymond 14, Venable 2. Totals 25 22-26 73.
D-Bolden 21, Morris 17, Brooks 6, Love 15, Russell 2, Clark 3, Turner 2, Embry 4. Totals 27 15-26 70. Half: R, 43-32.