At halftime of Tuesday night’s Baltimore County girls basketball championship, Pikesville coach Mike Dukes stressed the need to score some quick points after the break. New Town had rallied to tie the game and the Panthers could not afford to let the Titans keep rolling.
Panther’s shooting guard Jayda Mayles took care of that with back-to-back 3-pointers to open the half and spark the No. 10 Panthers to a 51-44 victory and their third county title in the past five seasons.
“We talked about that we needed to strike first in that third quarter,” Duke said. “They took all the momentum with them into halftime and Mayles — those two big 3′s to start the third quarter were nice to kind of get us back in the flow, to get our confidence back in this game.”
Mayles, a senior who finished with 11 points, spent a little time on the bench after a defensive glitch in the first half but said she was focused for the start of the second half.
“We just had the momentum, good energy, good confidence,” she said. “Good energy really pushes our offense and our defense. This really feels good.”
Like Mayles, senior guard Korai Bowen was thrilled to have the title back.
“Last year, we didn’t make it to counties,” Bowen said, “so this year, it feels great to win counties and I’m very excited for the rest of the season.”
After Mayles hit those shots, the host Panthers (18-5) never surrendered the lead, but they needed some big performances to fight off the quick young Titans (17-6).
Late in the third quarter, freshman point guard Mariah Jones-Bey, who finished with 13 points, took the ball end-to-end for a layup against the Titans’ man-to-man press. Thirty seconds later, she drove for another layup off a steal and then she fed Darielle Weems to run the lead to 44-33 by the end of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Weems hit a free throw and Jones-Bey popped in a short jumper to push the lead to 14 points before the Titans started to come back. Ryan Johnson, Nasia Hart, Nialah Mingo and Makiah Pollard scored in an 11-1 Titans run. Freshman guard Pollard banked in a 3-pointer with 2:10 left to pull within 48-44.
With 18 seconds remaining, Pikesville junior forward Aliyah Taylor sealed the title with a 3-pointer from the right wing.
“I had to get the shot off, knowing that the shot clock was [almost] going off. I had to shoot it right away,” said Taylor, who scored 13 points. “I think it really boosted up our energy at the end.”
Pikesville also needed a strong defensive effort in the second half especially against 5-11 junior forward Mingo, who scored 11 of her 15 points in the third quarter.
“Mingo was hurting us,” he said. “We had a hard time keeping her out of the lane, so I went to the zone … and we probably didn’t rebound as good as I would have liked. They were getting second chances on the offensive glass, but overall the zone did exactly what we wanted it to do, keep them out of the lane.”
The Titans, who won their last county title in 2017, had already staged a big rally, digging themselves out of a 10-point second-quarter hole with a 15-5 run to end the first half. Freshman wing Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 50 seconds left to cut the lead to 24-22. Mayles traded a pair of free throws with Mingo before Johnson fed junior guard Hart for a buzzer-beating layup to tie at 26.
In the final period, the Titans had chances too but hit just one of 10 free throws in the quarter.
“Basketball’s a game of runs,” New Town coach Steve Anderson said, “and I told the girls it’s a matter of weathering a run and then you go on a run of your own. They hit two big threes to start the (third) quarter and we just weren’t able to compete at the free-throw line. We missed  free throws and that’s the difference in the game. We were playing good defense all the way through and we just gave up three points when it hurt us the most.”
Next week, the Panthers and the Titans move on to the regional playoffs. Both have byes through this weekend’s first round.
In Class 1A South Region I, two-time defending state champion Pikesville is seeded third, and will travel to meet second-seeded Francis Scott Key, the Carroll County champion, in Monday’s semifinal. Loch Raven, whose only loss is to Pikesville, is the No. 1 seed.
New Town, the 2017 Class 2A champ, is the second seed in 2A North Region I behind Hereford. Monday, the Titans will host Carver A&T, which also has a quarterfinal bye.
BALTIMORE COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIP
(at Pikesville High School)
NO. 10 PIKESVILLE 51, NEW TOWN 44
New Town 6 20 7 11 —44
Pikesville 12 14 18 7 — 51
New Town—Ijae Dower 7, Ryan Johnson 7, Nasia Hart 8, Makaiah Pollard 3, Nialah Mingo,17 Jewel Hardison 2. Totals: 15 8-20 44.
Pikesville—Mariah Jones-Bey 13, Darielle Weems 5, Aliyah Taylor 13, Bree Taylor 2, Korai Bowen 3, Tykeisha Hill 4, Jayda Mayles 11. Totals. 19 6-12 51.