Seventh-ranked Digital Harbor couldn't have planned a better way to start last night's Class 1A girls state championship game, scoring nine straight points and holding Surrattsville of Prince George's County scoreless for nearly six minutes.
It was the way the Rams finished, however, that sealed their first state title.
After watching its double-digit lead whittled to one, the Baltimore City team closed with eight straight points over the game's final 40 seconds to pull away for a 50-41 victory at UMBC.
"Our Achilles' heel all year has been boxing out and rebounding. Tonight we did a better job of both," Rams coach Patrick McDonald said. "But you don't win a state championship without playing good defense, and I think defense was our difference tonight."
Digital Harbor (25-3) won despite shooting 21 percent from the field, primarily as a result of the clutch inside play of 6-foot-1 junior Asia Logan, who finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. She pulled down seven of her team's 22 offensive rebounds and was 15-for-16 at the foul line, where the Rams outscored the Hornets 24-12.
"We had too many fouls defensively," Surrattsville forward Endia Hill said. "We put them on the line too many times."
Guard Ke'Shara Floyd finished with 17 points and six rebounds for the Rams, who still had memories of a close loss to Pocomoke in the state semifinals a year ago.
"Getting close last year ... I went to therapy the whole summer trying to figure out what we needed to do," McDonald said.
The Rams, who defeated the Hornets in the first week of the season, seemed to figure that out early, running out to a 9-0 lead and holding Surrattsville (22-4) without a point for the first 6:05.
The Hornets, at times, were their own worst enemy, forcing passes and taking ill-advised shots. They started the game 0-for-5 with seven turnovers, never finding any offensive flow until Digital Harbor had built its lead to 13.
Led by Hill's game-high 22 points, however, the Hornets made a run in the second half, getting to within one on her three-point play with 1:14 left. They never took the lead, though.
The Rams answered moments later with a driving layup from Floyd. Logan then made a steal at the other end, and the Rams finished things off at the line.
The win came just hours after Digital Harbor's boys team captured its first title in College Park.
"We both made history in our school," Logan said, "and that's just really exciting."