The three-pointers were no problem for Arundel in the second half of last night's state girls basketball championship against Eleanor Roosevelt. The layups were another matter.
The No. 3 Wildcats missed two layups in the final 40 seconds. Roosevelt got the rebounds and Ahja Hall put one back for the game-winner as the Raiders escaped a thriller, 52-50, to claim their fourth straight state Class 4A crown at UMBC's RAC Arena.
The Wildcats, who won the most recent of their three state titles in 2004, missed out on the state tournament last season, but they felt about the same losing last night's final as they had about losing to Old Mill in last year's regional playoffs.
"Honestly, this is the worst feeling in the world," Arundel junior Simone Egwu said. "This is what we've been working for all year, and we didn't come here for second place. ... Like [coach Lee Rogers] said, we weren't here for next year. We were here for this year, and we're going to be back."
Through all but about three minutes of the second half, the Wildcats (22-6) had to play without Egwu, a 6-foot-3 center, who picked up her third foul late in the first half and fouled out with 3:13 left in the game.
The Wildcats did not dominate inside the way they had figured to with Egwu and 6-4 forward Sheronne Vails. The Raiders (24-2) had a 50-34 edge in rebounding.
"Rebounding was a big factor for us," Egwu said. "We just couldn't get it done this game. We didn't box out, we didn't execute the way you're supposed to."
Late in the third quarter, the Wildcats rallied from five points down with their three-point shooting.
Ashley Davis sparked the perimeter attack with a four-point play after hitting a long three with 2.5 seconds in the quarter left to pull Arundel within one.
An inside basket from Egwu opened the final quarter, and then the three-point shooting contest commenced. Davis and Ebonne Jones made two each. Jones hit one with 2:08 left for a 48-44 Arundel lead. But the Wildcats weren't the only ones with range. About a minute later, Noel Bullock was left alone on the right side and hit a 20-footer to bring the Raiders to 50-49.
The Wildcats missed the two layups and Hall hit the follow for a 51-50 Raiders lead with 25 seconds to go.
Elashier Hall hit one of three free throws down the stretch - another big edge for the Raiders, who shot 37 free throws to Arundel's 15.
At the buzzer, Jones launched a shot from just beyond half court that hit the backboard and the front of the rim but ricocheted away.