COLLEGE PARK -- Hoping to better prepare his team for the challenges it might face come March, Winters Mill coach Dave Herman loaded his early season schedule with the likes of Mount St. Joseph and Cardinal Gibbons, an unusual move for a Carroll County program.
It was a move, however, that paid huge dividends in last night's Class 2A state semifinals, as the No. 12 Falcons rallied from eight points down with just over four minutes left against perennial Prince George's County power Gwynn Park, then won it, 58-56, on guard Devon Lesniak's off-balance 15-footer at the buzzer.
"There was really no set play," said Lesniak, who finished with 10 points. "I looked up at the clock and there were three seconds left. I went to the elbow [on the court] and took a fade-away jumper. I felt like it was a good shot -- right on target."
The shot was a stunning end to a game that few gave the Falcons a chance to win. Now, Winters Mill (20-6) advances to today's 6 p.m. state final, where the Falcons will face No. 2 Randallstown, a 71-42 winner over Wicomico in last night's other Class 2A semifinal.
It marks the first time a Carroll County team has advanced to the state final since South Carroll in 1989.
Led by 6-foot-5 guard Cammeron Woodyard (22 points), Winters Mill hung with the more athletic Yellow Jackets (25-2) all night.
Winters Mill then took a 56-55 lead on Kendall Dorsey's three-pointer late in the fourth quarter, and Gwynn Park tied it with 1:03 to play when Sean Thomas hit one of two free throws. The Yellow Jackets hurt their cause by making just 10 of 21 free throws.
Thomas scored 18 and Harold Washington 15 for Gwynn Park, which was aiming for its 11th state title.