Milford Mill's improbable run through the postseason came up a little short yesterday at the state finals, where the Millers ran into a more experienced Middletown team and the near-perfect shooting of Kristen Waeber.
The 5-foot-10 senior forward celebrated her 18th birthday by scoring 31 points and hitting 12 of 14 shots from the field in a 57-51 Knights victory for the Class 2A championship at UMBC's RAC Arena. It was fourth title for the Knights from Frederick County, their first since 1993.
The Millers (18-9) were trying to win their second straight state crown after taking the Class 3A title last season. In typical Milford Mill style, they rallied from a double-digit deficit and took the lead in the third quarter, but this time they could not maintain the momentum.
With the game tied at 40 going into the final five minutes, the Knights (26-1) went on a 10-4 run that all but sealed the victory. Waeber, the leading scorer in Middletown history, hit a couple of key shots, grabbed a pair of rebounds and had a steal in the run that boosted the Knights' lead to 54-45 with 56 seconds left.
"We really haven't experienced being down too much," Waeber said. "Even during the playoffs, we haven't really had too many close games, so we took that as a challenge and made that run there. It was a huge momentum shift."
Millers senior Brittany James said: "Our defense broke down, and at the end, we weren't taking the right shots on offense. That was about it."
The Knights' accuracy made the biggest difference throughout, as they hit 52.4 percent of their shots while the Millers shot 27 percent from the field. The Millers took 21 more shots than Middletown but hit five fewer.
Milford Mill coach DeToiya McAliley, who graduated all five starters from last year's team and rebuilt with former role players, transfers Brittne Gowdy and Ariel Blackwell and freshman point guard Devonne Richardson, attributed the difference to experience. The Millers had only three seniors on the roster, while eight of the nine Knights who played were seniors.
Still, Waeber was the only one who proved unstoppable. She scored the first eight Knights points, as Middletown ran up a 12-point lead by the beginning of the second quarter.
"She needs her due. She's a really good player," McAliley said. "We tried to switch up defenders on her. We tried to give her looks from bigger guards. We don't have any true post players, and the ones we do have are tall but not as physically strong as she is."
While the Millers were distraught over not winning the title, they had to admit that they had come a long way.
"We accomplished a lot, coming from nothing to second," said junior guard Gowdy, who scored 16 yesterday. "We've come a long way, and they had a load of seniors. We played our hearts out. It was our last game and we wanted to do it for our seniors, but sometimes everybody can't get it all."
MM-Richardson 6, Blackwell 8, James 13, Gowdy 16, McCallum 3, Gordon 5. Totals 17 14-25 51. MT-Holian 8, Vandegrift 4, Boyer 2, Waeber 31, Kinna 10, Hess 2. Totals 22 12-19 57. Half: MT, 24-19.
Eleanor Roosevelt 53, Gaithersburg 45 -- Selena Nwude, a 6-5 center, scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Rams of Prince George's County over the Trojans of Montgomery County for their second straight state title. The Rams (26-1) also got 10 points and four assists from forward Michaya Walker. LaTanya Copeland, a 6-1 center, had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Trojans (25-2).
ER-Dodson 5, Wright 6, Scott 5, Walker 10, Nwude 20, Crosland 2, Applewhite 5. Totals 23 6-14 53. G-Steele 2, Copeland 10, Ajavon 8, Frazier 9, Dunn 8, Farve 2, Harman 6. Totals 12 18-27 45. Half: ER, 23-20.