Pikesville guard Mariah Jones-Bey expended so much energy early in Monday night’s regional semifinal against Francis Scott Key that coach Mike Dukes put her on the bench for a while in the third quarter. She needed the rest, but he couldn’t afford to leave her there for long.
The freshman had played her way into the starting point guard role late in the regular season and had grown into a valuable asset on both ends of the court as Key found out.
Jones-Bey scored eight of her 23 points in the fourth quarter, leading the two-time defending state champions to a 52-46 victory in the Class 1A South Region I girls basketball semifinal at Francis Scott Key in Union Bridge.
Jones-Bey twice tied the game in a back-and-forth quarter before her 3-pointer gave No. 10 Pikesville the lead for good with 1:58 to go.
Jones-Bey hit five 3-pointers in the game and also had six rebounds and an assist while leading a tough Pikesville man-to-man defense with six steals.
“She’s the type of athlete you don’t really see around here, the shiftiness,” Key coach TJ Develin said. “She’s a great athlete and hit some big shots and she’s only a freshman, so she’s got a bright future.”
Jones-Bey said support from her teammates means everything when she takes those shots. She called the Panthers a family and said there was never an issue when she became the starting point guard.
“When I’m ready to shoot, I can feel it going in,” Jones-Bey said, " and I can hear my teammates saying, ‘Shoot, shoot.’ That’s just like building me. I’m going to shoot it and I’m going to feel that confidence knowing my teammates and my coaches trust me to shoot that shot.”
Starting senior guard Korai Bowen, who took over the offense when Jones-Bey rested, talked to her teammate during timeouts, trying to make sure she was calm in the tight game.
“I think she did a wonderful job,” Bowen said. “From counties and here, she has been playing very well as a freshman. I think (Jones-Bey’s last 3-pointer) was a great shot.”
The third-seeded Panthers (19-5) will travel to meet top-seeded and No. 11 Loch Raven (20-1) for the regional title at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Raiders, who rolled by Western Tech 62-23 in the other semifinal, suffered their only loss to Pikesville, 57-29, three weeks ago.
In Monday’s clash of Baltimore County champion Pikesville and Carroll County champion Key (19-4), the Panthers trailed going into the final quarter, but Jones-Bey tied it at 38 with a 3-pointer that just beat the shot clock.
Eagles sophomore guard Summer Brooks answered with a long buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the lead back to Key. The teams traded baskets before the Panthers took off on a 9-2 run that pushed them ahead, 49-45, with 47 seconds remaining.
Senior guard Jayda Mayles hit a follow shot before Jones-Bey added a free throw to tie at 43 with 3:04 left. Eagles senior forward Ally Mathias took the lead back with two free throws before Jones-Bey hit the 3-pointer for the 46-45 lead. Junior guard Aliyah Taylor added a free throw and junior forward Tykeisha Hill, who scored 10, stuck a putback.
Clinging to the three-point lead, the Panthers held their breath when Brooks fired another long-range 3-pointer and hit the ground. The shot missed but she hit the last of three free throws, cutting the lead to three. Jones-Bey’s free throw five seconds later made it a two-possession game with 30 seconds to go.
After Jones-Bey’s missed free throw, Mayles grabbed the rebound. After a Panthers time out, Mathias forced a Pikesville turnover, but Mayles got the ball right back and the Eagles were forced to foul. Taylor hit both free throws with 20 seconds left.
The Eagles had been a second-half team all season, but the Panthers never allowed them to get more than three points ahead after the break. Neither team led by more than six the entire game.
“Wow, I’m so proud of this team,” Dukes said. They’re so resilient and they don’t rattle when we fall behind. We just really stuck to the game plan… Defense and some timely baskets really brought us home.”
Develin, whose team fell 68-47 to the Panthers in last year’s regional playoffs, said he was proud too of how much his program has grown. The Eagles won their only state title in 1997.
“In the moment, this was rough,” he said. “We had a chance and last year, it didn’t seem like there was one. This year, it was just like the ball went their way and it shows how far we’ve come with the program. That senior class started off with zero county wins and to think we’re league champions, we’re 19-3 going into the home court playoff game against the returning state champs and to know that we’ve made it, that this program has made that level to be a state contender.”
The Eagles got a big game from junior guard Drew Watkins, who scored 17 points. Brooks added 10.
CLASS 1A SOUTH, REGION I SEMIFINAL
NO. 10 PIKESVILLE 52, FRANCIS SCOTT KEY 46
Pikesville 13 9 13 14 — 52
FS Key 12 8 18 8 — 46
Pikesville—Mariah Jones-Bey 23, Aliyah Taylor 5, Bree Taylor 2, Korai Bowen 3, Tykeisha Hill 10, Jayda Mayles 9. Totals: 18 10-15 52.
FS Key —Ally Mathais 6, Abby Reiger 4, Summer Brooks 10, Rayna Mlller 1, Drew Watkins 17, Caroline Kohr 2, Kensi Bancroft 6. Totals: 17 9-13 46.