The old NCAA maxim of survive and advance seems like an apt way to describe the conclusion of Saturday afternoon’s Anne Arundel County girls basketball championship but with a slight modification.
In this case, Glen Burnie survived a furious comeback and a potential last-second game-tying 3-pointer by Falcons guard Maria Bragg to capture its second straight county title by a 37-34 score at Arundel High School.
“We didn’t have our best game,” Gophers coach Sam Porter said. “(Severna Park coach Kristofer Dean) prepped well. Nerves played a part. We plan on making a deep run in the playoffs, and we’re going to have games like this. Severna Park is one of the teams that prepares you for that. You have to do all of the little things plus more.”
In a contest that saw more combined turnovers (12) than points (11) in the first quarter, the Gophers (19-2), who also captured the regular season county crown, built an 8-point lead with 4:43 left in the game on 1 of 2 free throws by Cassidy Wilkerson (seven points).
The Falcons, who limited Glen Burnie to just 16 second-half points, then used an 8-3 run over the next roughly four minutes to close the game to 35-34 following a fast-break layup by Ryn Feemster that followed six straight points by Hanna Verreault, who produced 10 of her game-high 17 points in the fourth quarter.
A turnover by Glen Burnie, a couple of misses by the Falcons, and a block by Gophers senior forward Aichetta Soumaoro (five rebounds, six blocks) kept the lead at a point until Layla Washington was fouled on an inbound play and converted both double bonus free throws with 27.1 seconds remaining to push the advantage to three.
The Falcons had a chance to tie the contest late on a 3-point attempt by Sally Trent, but the shot went long and a follow attempt rimmed out, giving the ball to the Gophers. Porter called timeout with four seconds left to avert a turnover and set up an inbound play that failed as Bragg stole the ball and quickly lined up a three attempt from the left wing that bounced off the rim and backboard before returning to the court as the final buzzer sounded.
”I actually thought it was going in,” said Dean, whose 18-5 squad fell 53-30 to Glen Burnie early last month. “It was close. Maria, she’s such a good player. I don’t even know how she got to the ball in time, let alone get it off. We gave them a shot. Hopefully, we see them again late (in the playoffs).
“That’s our MO (defensive pressure). We consider ourselves the best in the state defensively. These girls are such good athletes and smart, and we play a different type of man defense than most. They did a good job. I’m proud of them.”
The Falcons focused that smothering defense on Gophers senior guard Amourie Porter, who was limited to a pair of field goals, but who finished with 16 points, drawing several fouls on dribble drives to the basket. Having battled through double teams and sliding coverage by multiple Severna Park defenders, Porter was fired up while making her way for another championship medal during the awards ceremony.
“I’m personally very excited because the refs weren’t going our way,” said Amourie Porter, who made 11 of 16 free throws and snared 12 rebounds in the win.”They weren’t giving us no calls, but that’s fine. We’ve got our own energy. I’m just excited.”
After a sluggish start by both teams in the first quarter, the Gophers twice grabbed leads of 10 points at 13-3 and 17-7 before settling for a 21-12 lead going into halftime. Porter and Wilkerson combined for nine of the team’s 13 second-quarter points on free throws or drives to the basket.
The Falcons climbed within three points at 21-18 with 3:15 left in the third quarter, but an open layup by McKenzie Gilbert off a pass from Porter and then two free throws by Porter pushed Glen Burnie’s advantage back to seven, 27-20, by quarter’s end.
“It was a nerve-racking experience, definitely coming down to the last minute of it, but we knew we had this in the bag because if we just play the way we’re supposed to, then we can pull out anything,” said Gophers senior Lania Nick, whose long-distance 3-pointer with 2:58 left in the game gave her squad a 35-29 lead.
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 7 GLEN BURNIE 37, SEVERNA PARK 34
Severna Park 3 9 8 14 - 34
Glen Burnie 8 13 6 10 - 37
Severna Park - Hanna Verreault 17, Karli Kirchenheiter 2, Abby Kavanagh 6, Maria Bragg 3, Ryn Feemster 4, Lilly Spilker 2. Totals: 12 8-14 34.
Glen Burnie - Cassidy Wilkerson 7, Amourie Porter 16, Aichatta Soumaoro 3, Lania Nick 7, McKenzie Gilbert 2, Layla Washington 2. Totals: 8 18-27 37.