COLLEGE PARK - Pikesville High coach Mike Dukes threw his arms in the air and the Panthers leaped for joy as the final buzzer sounded on their third straight Class 1A girls state basketball championship Saturday afternoon.
The No. 11 Panthers might be building a Class 1A dynasty, but the journey to this title — a 38-33 victory over first-time state finalist Mountain Ridge — was especially rewarding, because their team chemistry, support for each other and endless resilience laid the foundation for a different kind of team.
Senior guard Jayda Mayles hit back-to-back 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to light the final fire, but everyone contributed to a swarming man-to-man defense that held the Miners to 19 percent shooting as the Panthers were the only team — boys or girls — to repeat as champs.
“This one is actually the most rewarding one for me, because I knew we were underdogs after we lost a few pieces,” said Dukes, whose best player from last season transferred a week before the season started. “We know a lot of people counted us out going in and we talked to the girls early about how you can’t let those things define your season and we thought we could be really balanced and that’s really what we were, just a really balanced team all year long.”
Mayles, who led the Panthers with 14 points, agreed.
“It’s great man. It’s really a family. I love all my [teammates],” Mayles said. “It’s more rewarding, more special, like he said, because a lot of people counted us out just because we lost people, but I feel like with us losing those people, everybody stepped up and became more of a team.”
With the victory at Xfinity Center at the University of Maryland, the Panthers (22-5 overall) became the first girls team to win three straight Class 1A titles since Brooklyn Park won its third in 1987 on the way to a state-record five in a row. Only Brooklyn Park (which closed in 1990), Eleanor Roosevelt and Dunbar have won more than three consecutive crowns in all classifications.
Early in Saturday’s game, both teams struggled to find openings in each other’s defenses and to hit even their best shots as they played to a 9-9 tie a minute into the second quarter.
Mayles then hit a baseline jumper and a 3-pointer from beyond the college arc. Freshman point guard Mariah Jones-Bey grabbed a steal and fed Aliyah Taylor for a transition bucket to boost Pikesville’s lead to 16-9 at the half.
The fifth-seeded Miners (20-7) went almost 17 minutes without hitting a field goal until junior point guard Sydney Snyder scored with 38 seconds left in the third quarter. By then, the second-seeded Panthers led, 21-14.
Jones-Bey opened the final quarter with a runner and Miners junior forward Reghan Sivic answered with two free throws before Mayles nailed the two big 3-pointers within 25 seconds — both on assists from Jones-Bey — that sparked the Panthers.
“I think everybody got charged up and fired up,” Dukes said. “We needed a boost at the point, we needed a spark and that was the exact spark we needed for sure.”
Miners coach Rob Duncan said containing Mayles was one of his team’s priorities, but they lost Mayles on both of those shots.
“Those two 3-pointers and offensive rebounds, to me, were the difference in the game,” Duncan said. “Everything else, these girls laid it on the line. They did everything they were told to. Just two big plays there. The girl to her credit, she stepped forward and made those two big 3s and the offensive rebounding was tough for us to overcome.”
The Miners, from Allegany County, outrebounded the Panthers, 35-33, but in the final seconds, Pikesville senior guard Korai Bowen grabbed two offensive rebounds that all but sealed the win.
Snyder had hit a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left to pull within 33-28, but the Miners had to start fouling to get the ball back. Twice the Panthers missed free throws and both times Bowen grabbed the rebound.
“At that point, it was a five-point game. We grab that rebound, go down and score there, we’re talking one-possession game at that point in time and the whole situation of pressure really ratchets up for Pikesville, but we didn’t secure the rebound so we really didn’t have an opportunity to do that,” Duncan said.
Bowen hit one free throw and Jones-Bey hit three to keep the Panthers just enough ahead. The Miners cut the lead to 38-33 on Rhegan Lamberson’s 3-pointer with 27 seconds left but did not get another shot
The Panthers, Baltimore County champions, also got a strong defensive performance from junior guard Taylor to hold Snyder, a 3-point ace who averages 17.2 points, to just 12 and only four in the first three quarters
Jones-Bey finished with 11 points, five assists and four steals while Taylor also had nine rebounds. Junior forwards Tykeisha Hill and Darielle Weems combined for nine rebounds.
“It feels good and especially to be part of Pikesville,” said Jones-Bey. “At Pikesville, we’re a family and I like being a part of it. They make me feel good… My freshman year, we got close, we got all the wins together, losses together and we came out here, we kept our head up and made it work.”
CLASS 1A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
at University of Maryland
NO. 11 PIKESVILLE 38, MOUNTAIN RIDGE 33
Mountain Ridge 7 2 5 19 — 33
Pikesville 8 8 5 17 — 38
Mountain Ridge — Ava Tringler 2, Rhegan Lamberson 7, Reghan Sivic 10, Sydney Snyder 12, Bayleigh Lamberson 2. Totals: 8 14-15 33.
Pikesville—Mariah Jones-Bey 11, Amya Moore 1, Darielle Weems 2, Aliyah Taylor 9, Korai Bowen 1, Jayda Mayles 14. Totals: 12 11-23 38.