TOWSON – In a relatively close Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 4A girls basketball state semifinal contest, Old Mill High School used a late-game burst of defensive aggression and offensive energy to escape with a narrow 57-55 win over Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School at Towson University’s SECU Arena on March 14.
Old Mill’s Sydney Faulcon recorded 13 points and 12 rebounds while Deja Atkinson made 7-of-8 vital free throws to finish with 13 points and eight boards, leading the Patriots to the victory.
“They put forth the effort and it’s like when they’re down, they don’t worry about it. They don’t fret. They pick each other up and they get after it,” Old Mill Coach Rick Smith said of his team after the hard-fought comeback victory.
Early on, the Barons used keen ball movement to find open scorers. B-CC ended the first three quarters with small 1-2 point leads and in the top of the fourth, they extended their lead to seven (48-41), which was the biggest advantage it held all evening.
The midway point of the fourth was when a volatile momentum shift occurred, beginning with a steal (and an and-one layup) by Old Mill’s Mikayah Mallett. Their next time down the floor, Faulcon got a putback shot to tie the game as the crowd erupted. The Patriots got another stop on defense, which led to a 3-pointer by Destiny Galloway to help her team go up, 51-48, capping off a 10-0 scoring run in a span of a minute and a half.
With a minute left in the game, Old Mill led by two points and after a few more defensive stops, Atkinson grabbed some crucial rebounds and nailed some crucial free throws to put the Patriots up 57-52 with 34 seconds left.
On the following possession, Lily Roberson of B-CC hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit back to two points. Fortunately for the Barons, Old Mill turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play and missed two free throws on their next possession.
With 9.1 seconds left on the game clock, B-CC quickly advanced the ball quickly up the floor with Merete Cowles leading the way. The senior guard drove right and flipped up a one-handed runner on the baseline. However, the ball bounced off the opposite side of the rim as time expired, securing the win for Old Mill.
“I’m just proud of the team, proud of the girls and how they came together,” said Bethesda-CC Head Coach Ryan Ingalls following the heartbreaker. “We knew that we wanted to get it down the court and try to penetrate and see whatever looks opened up off their (Old Mill) help. We got a great shot, and it just didn’t fall.”
For the Patriots, Galloway finished with 11 points and three assists and Mallett poured in 10 points with eight rebounds. Faulcon was a critical part of Old Mill’s comeback rally, scoring 11 of her 13 points in the second half.
“Just maintaining my focus and keeping a positive attitude throughout the game was what our main goal was,” said Faulcon, a 6-foot-2 center.
Atkinson also had an immense impact on the defensive end, totaling a game-high six steals on the evening. “Overall I think my team, we all stepped up, to be honest. It wasn’t one person. It was definitely a team effort,” she said.
“Great execution at the end there. Merete, she had the opportunity, and sometimes it happens. Shots don’t fall,” Ingalls recalled, illustrating the final play.
Bethesda-CC guard Caroline Orza and forward Stephanie Howell acknowledged Old Mill’s aggression and ability to capitalize on key moments.
“They were a great team. They never once gave up,” Orza said. “Even when we went up, it was very hard to sort of quiet them, especially when they kept hitting shots and they were firing each other up. It was kind of hard to come back on them because they play well together.”
Expounding on her teammate’s remarks, Howell said Old Mill was “probably the most aggressive team we’ve seen all year. And they definitely were a lot more aggressive in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. It’s hard to adjust during the game when that aggression and momentum shifts like that.”
The Barons were beaten on the glass 39-37 and outscored 20-13 in second-chance points. Orza, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, led all scorers with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field. She also grabbed nine rebounds as well. Howell and sophomore guard Lily Roberson combined for 17 points and 14 rebounds.
“I’m just super proud of how far we’ve come,” said Howell, fighting back tears.
“My freshman and my sophomore season, we didn’t make it past the second round or the third round. I saw a lot of potential and we just didn’t pull through at the end, so the last two years – just to make it to Towson both years – is like the greatest way to end my career here… I couldn’t have asked for a better four years of high school.”