When the final buzzer sounded on yesterday's state Class 2A girls basketball championship game, City senior Akilah Sewell dropped to the floor with her hands over her face.
If you didn't know any better, you would have thought her team had just lost, but the No. 4 Knights had just become the first City College team to win a state championship in any sport - and they did it by defeating previously unbeaten River Hill, 59-51, in overtime at UMBC's RAC Arena.
"I wanted this so bad," Sewell said. "It meant a lot to me. We worked very hard through the year - our losses, all our wins. I was just very happy. As a senior, it was just a very good moment."
The Knights (24-3) used their zone defense to contain No. 6 River Hill's inside threats, 6-foot-4 Ryann Dannelly and 6-foot-1 Alicia Seelaus, and they exploited their advantage in ball-handling and quickness in the backcourt. City guards Breaira Barksdale and LaShay Taft combined for 39 points - including 10 of 12 in overtime - and nine assists.
With the teams tied at 47 after regulation, the Hawks (27-1) missed four shots to open the overtime period and the Knights began to roll as soon as Barksdale hit a driving layup and Taft fed Kayla Dillard for another layup. Those baskets - both converted turnovers - sparked a 10-2 run interrupted only by two free throws by Seelaus.
Barksdale banked in a short jump shot with 52 seconds left for a 53-49 lead, and the Hawks started fouling. Taft and Barksdale went 6-for-8 from the free-throw line in the final 36 seconds.
Shantrel Oliver led the Hawks with 22 points. Dannelly and Seelaus, together averaging 26 points and 22 rebounds, combined for 13 of each thanks in large part to physical post defense from coach George Petrides' crew of 6-footers, Sewell, Dillard and Victoria Mitchell, who combined for 20 rebounds - 12 of them defensive.
The Hawks took the loss hard, especially after making up an 11-point second-quarter deficit.
"When you wanted it the entire year and you get to the point where you don't get it, it hits you hard," Dannelly said.