The No. 1 Lake Clifton boys basketball team has had its share of tests during its undefeated season, but none could compare to the challenge presented by No. 3 Milford Mill yesterday with the Class 3A North regional title on the line.
The visiting Millers, who believed all the way to the end they could pull off the upset, had the ball in the hands of standout senior guard Xavier Drake in the last second and a chance to win. But Drake's off-balance three-point try in the right corner, with a hand in his face, found the front rim at the buzzer, making Will Barton's two free throws with seven seconds left stand as the Lakers survived with a 56-54 win.
Barton, a junior forward, led a balanced offense with 15 points, and the Lakers remained unbeaten (26-0) with a berth in the state semifinals set for Thursday at Comcast Center in College Park.
Milford Mill, the Baltimore County champion that battled back from a nine-point deficit in the last five minutes yesterday, closed its season with a 22-4 mark.
"I want to commend Milford Mill; they were a heck of a team," Barton said.
With the Millers trailing 54-46, Drake hit a long three and then an even longer three to cut the deficit to 54-52 with 1:16 to play.
After Antonio Barton (12 points) missed three free throws - a third awarded on a lane violation - with 50 seconds left, Drake scored on a driving layup to tie the score at 54 with 23 seconds remaining.
On the Lakers' final possession, Will Barton grabbed a rebound off a missed shot and was fouled, hitting both shots.
Good defense took care of the rest.