Host Fallston spent much of yesterday's Class 3A North regional final getting better acquainted with the foul line. In the end, however, it was No. 7 Milford Mill that earned the right to return to a familiar destination.
Despite being outscored from the line, 19-4, the Millers took advantage of several easy scoring chances, particularly in the second half, to hold off the Cougars for a 58-50 win, sending them back to UMBC and the state semifinals for the sixth straight year.
Led by guards Qiana Cheatham (15 points) and Candyce Jeter (14), Milford Mill (21-3) pulled away by using penetration to create layups.
"A lot of penetrating and dishing," said Millers coach Pam Wright, who improved her career record to 202-39 over 10 years. "We had to do what we had to do."
Said Fallston co-coach Alice Puckett: "They killed us on inbounds plays. I thought that was the difference in the game."
Milford Mill (21-3) will face Patuxent - which beat Westlake - Thursday at 9 p.m. The Millers will be shooting for their sixth state trip to the state final, where they have yet to win.
Early yesterday, however, it looked as if Fallston (18-6) might be the one to advance.
Paced by a three-pointer and 15-foot jumper by Amanda Andrews, the Cougars took an 8-0 lead and kept the Millers scoreless for the first 4:25.
"I was a little frustrated at the beginning. They were looking like they were going to win this game," said Cheatham. "They wanted us to play their game - they tried to slow us down - so we just needed to play our game and make the game go more fast paced."
Once the Millers scored and were able to start employing the full-court press, Fallston's fortune's quickly changed. The Millers took their first lead on Ashley Cates' layup to open the second quarter
After Cates hit a 17-foot jumper with just over 2 minutes left in the half, the Millers never surrendered the lead, maintaining a small advantage until building their lead to as many as 11 points late in the game.
"We just stepped it up and came together," Cheatham said. "Once we went up, we never went down."
Despite a balanced scoring attack led by Whitney Griffith (11 points) and Allison Borchers (10), Fallston was hurt by several factors, most notably its 22 percent shooting from the field.
Just as importantly, however, the Cougars were largely unable to take advantage of their opponents' foul trouble, which saw them pick up their 10th personal of the second half with 7:38 left.
Fallston made just 15 of its first 27 free-throw attempts, and often settled for perimeter jumpers instead of pushing the ball inside.
"We were very impatient on offense," Puckett said. "That's been something we've struggled with for three years."
MM - Cates 6, Ca. Jeter 14, Cheatham 15, Scott 6, Ch. Jeter 3, Carson 10, Gordon 4. Totals 26 4-15 58. F- Andrews 8, Borchers 10, Griffith 11, Heier 8, Kelly 7, Stien 1, Yoorhees 5. Totals 14 19-31 50. Half: Milford Mill, 28-25.