New Town High School will finally get its banner. Nearly a year after being stripped of its Class 1A state title for using two ineligible players, the host No. 7 Titans last night got a game-high 27 points from guard Peju Awodipe, holding off a stiff challenge by Catonsville in a 58-51 win to claim the Baltimore County championship.
"This is huge," said New Town coach Pam Wright, whose team missed out on the county title game last season, its first at the varsity level. "Last year, opportunity was sitting there for us, and we didn't capitalize. This was a huge victory - real, real important to get that first banner."
It didn't come without a fight. Awodipe either hit open jumpers or used her athleticism to create scoring chances on the run for the Titans (18-3). New Town, which earned a spot in the game by winning the county's 2A-1A Division, looked as though it would run away with it early, forcing 14 turnovers in the first quarter alone.
Awodipe's long jumper extended their lead to 29-17 near the end of the first half. Catonsville (19-3), the county's 4A-3A champion, cut into the lead several times, using its ball-control offense to slow New Town's run-and-gun attack. Led by freshman point guard Shamika Williams (15 points) and forward Janay Johnson (14), the Comets cut the lead to four after halftime, and could have led if not for several missed layups and poor foul shooting (12 for 24).
"That's kind of been our Achilles' heel throughout a lot of the year," said Comets coach Mike Mohler.
Trailing by 10 midway through the fourth quarter, Catonsville made its final surge, escaping New Town's traps to score eight straight points and pulling within two on Jennifer Willis' layup with 2:03 left.
With just under a minute left, however, the Titans' Tyra Breaux stole the ball from Williams as she drove past half court. She then passed ahead to Awodipe for the easy layup, extending the lead to 57-51 and all but closing the door on the Comets' upset bid.
"I thought the kids played their hearts out," Mohler said. "They came back a couple times. We haven't seen that wave after wave after wave, and I thought we did an OK job. With layups and foul shots, it could be different."
Said Wright, "Sometimes good teams make runs. We kind of got a little nervous and they made a run, but we held on."