ROCKVILLE - Pikesville and Mountain Ridge used stingy zone defenses, Tuesday night, to earn trips to the Class 1A state girls basketball championship game.
Two-time defending state champ and No. 11 Pikesville sprung its zone on Patterson Mill in the second half to overcome an 11-point deficit and fuel a 44-31 victory. First-time state semifinalist Mountain Ridge used its zone from the beginning to defeat 12th-ranked Forest Park, 37-20.
After their wins at Richard Montgomery in Montgomery County, the second-seeded Panthers (21-5 overall) and the fifth-seeded Miners (20-6) will play for the title Saturday at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center at 3:00 p.m.
For Pikesville, the man-to-man defense that had worked so well all season failed to stop Patterson Mill’s penetration and the Huskies (14-11) repeatedly beat the Panthers down court and often struck with backdoor cuts.
The Huskies finished the first half on a 9-2 run with junior forward Kiley Wilhelm scoring seven of her game-high 14 points and assisting senior guard Ava Wheeler for the other two.
After the break, sophomore guard Abby Shertzer hit a 3-pointer to boost the Huskies’ lead to 24-13 before Pikesville’s zone shut them down for the next 12 minutes. The Panthers’ 23-0 run flipped the lead to 36-24 in their favor.
Pikesville coach Mike Dukes said he was disappointed in the Panthers’ first-half defense. Switching to a zone had driven their win over Loch Raven in the regional final, so he called on it again.
“We felt we needed to try the zone in the second half and see where it took us,” Dukes said. “Our energy was a lot better with the zone and we did a great job closing out on their shooters and not giving them second-chance opportunities.”
Junior forward Darielle Weems, who led the Panthers with 12 points, agreed the zone gave the players an energy boost.
“When we play zone, we’re communicating more, we were talking, the rotation was better, so I think the zone was the best fit for us in the second half,” she said.
Patterson Mill first-year coach Rich Wilhelm didn’t expect the zone and his team didn’t have the power forwards to maneuver against it.
“I figured he would go man probably the whole time,” Wilhelm said, “but I honestly didn’t figure that we would be up to the point where he would want to make that change. It was a great move on his part. We panicked a little bit. Our team is super young … so we’ll learn as we go.”
Weems and senior guard Jayda Mayles, who finished with 11 points, sparked the run. Weems hit a follow shot and Mayles nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the lead to three. Freshman guard Mariah Jones-Bey added a free throw before junior guard Bree Taylor hit two more free throws to tie at 24 going into the fourth quarter.
Taylor opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from the corner and the Panthers would boost their lead to 36-24 on Jones-Bey’s runner with 3:18 to go as they went on to a 20-point final quarter.
“It feels great,” Mayles said of earning another trip to the title game. “It just feels good to be back because it’s my last year. A lot of people doubted us at the beginning of the year … but we came together as a team and everybody stepped up.”
In the early semifinal, top-seeded Forest Park and Mountain Ridge played without a 30-second clock. The clock was fixed for the Pikesville-Patterson Mill game, but no shot clock benefited the Miners, who are more of a ball control team while the Foresters like to run.
The difference especially showed in the fourth quarter. The Foresters stuck to their fast offensive pace while the Miners and junior point guard Sydney Snyder slowed the ball down and took a lot of time off the clock. The Foresters committed seven fouls trying to get the ball back.
The Miners didn’t hit a field goal in the quarter. They didn’t even take a shot in the final five minutes. They didn’t need to. They scored 13 points on free throws — nine by Snyder, who finished with 21 points.
Mountain Ridge, from Frostburg, had played three games this season in Pennsylvania and West Virginia without a shot clock. The Foresters had not played without one.
“It was very frustrating because of the foul count,” Forest Park coach Jermaine Dunn said. “There was nothing we could do. Especially in a game of this magnitude, (not having a shot clock) changes everything, because we’re a team that applies pressure and tries to speed teams up. When they know they can be patient and they have no shot clock, that takes away our strength.”
Still, the Foresters struggled against the zone from the start. They shot 0-for-11 and didn’t score in the first quarter, helping the Miners to a 6-0 lead.
The Foresters couldn’t get the ball inside and their perimeter shots weren’t falling as the Miners ran up 21-9 lead at the half.
Forest Park rallied early in the third quarter, scoring the first five points to cut the margin to seven. Junior guard Darryn Hough hit a layup and freshman point guard Mckenzie Fitzgerald hit a runner before Na’Jae Malik-El’s free throw pulled the Foresters within 21-14 with 5:58 left in the third quarter.
Junior forward Ava Tringler’s 3-pointer ended the Foresters’ spurt, but neither team would score for the last 4:43 of the quarter and the Foresters never cut into the 10-point lead.
“I was not thrilled to play without a shot clock,” said Miners coach Rob Duncan, “but we turned it, made it our ally and we used it to our advantage throughout the game. We knew that they just reached, so if we could spread the floor, they were going to get in foul trouble and we were going to shoot a lot of foul shots and that was going to take us home.”
The Foresters hit one more field goal than the Mountain Ridge, but they only shot four free throws while the Miners hit 20.
For three straight seasons, the Foresters have been to the state semifinals without a win, but with a young team, Dunn believes the best lies ahead.
“We’ll be back,” he said. “We only have one senior on the team and we can fix the things that need to be fixed. We didn’t capitalize on some layups, shots weren’t falling, so we lost to a good team. I’m not disappointed. We had a great season. We overachieved. We made it to the final four. A lot of teams don’t make it this far.”
CLASS 1A STATE SEMIFINALS
at Richard Montgomery
NO. 11 PIKESVILLE 44, PATTERSON MILL 31
Patterson Mill 10 11 3 7 — 31
Pikesville 9 4 11 20 — 44
Patterson Mill —Ava Wheeler 4, Sophia Trinh 3, Zoe Valan 3, Abby Shertzer 3, Kiley Wilhelm 14, Rylie Madsen 4. Totals: 12 3-5 31.
Pikesville—Mariah Jones-Bey 8, Amya Moore 4, Darielle Weems 12, Bree Taylor 5,Korai Bowen 2, Tykeisha Hill 2, Jayda Mayles 11. Totals: 12 15-24 44.
MOUNTAIN RIDGE 37, NO. 12 FOREST PARK 20
Mountain Ridge 6 15 3 13 — 37
Forest Park 0 9 5 6 — 20
Mountain Ridge — Ava Tringler 6, Rhegan Lamberson 2, Reghan Sivic 2, Sydney Snyder 21, Bayleigh Lamberson 4. Totals: 7 20-26 37.
Forest Park —Aliyah Carroll 8, Darryn Hough 2, NaJae Malik-El 1, Shakira Mitchell 2, Mckenzie Fitzgerald 5, Chaniya Taylor 2. Totals: 8 2-4 20.