Third-ranked Oakland Mills went into last night's Class 3A, Region I girls basketball final against visiting Howard without a key weapon in senior point guard Stefanie Magro, but senior guards Katrina Overton and Suzanne Willis stepped forward in her place to lead the Scorpions to a 62-60 victory.
Willis scored a team-high 14 points, including two crucial free throws with 47 seconds left. Overton followed by making a foul shot with 11 seconds left to clinch the victory that sent Oakland Mills (22-2) to its first state semifinal appearance in school history.
The Scorpions will play an undetermined opponent Thursday at Catonsville Community College.
The Scorpions were forced to play for the first time this season without Magro (11.5 points, 6.7 steals, 2.7 assists), who was rushed to Howard County General Hospital with severe stomach pains several hours before game time. The extent of Magro's ailment and her availability for Thursday's semifinal could not be determined last night.
Magro's absence forced the Scorpions to turn point-guard duty over to senior Mia Dammen, normally the team's shooting guard. It also forced Oakland Mills to depend more on Willis and Overton, who shared the fifth starting spot for most of the season.
"I walked around the gym with them [Willis and Overton] five times before the game talking about what I needed from them," said Oakland Mills coach Teresa Waters. "I told them what I wanted, and they went out and gave it to me."
Dammen and senior forwards Christine Copeland and Andrea Romich also contributed plenty to the Oakland Mills' victory. Dammen had 14 points -- 10 coming in the Scorpions' 24-point second quarter -- 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals. Copeland also scored 14 points -- 10 in the second half -- and collected 10 rebounds. Romich had 10 points and 13 rebounds.
No. 10 Howard (17-8) was led by senior guard Kristi Greer and junior forward Krista Fulton, who each scored 18 points. Greer added 11 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Camille Powell had seven points and 11 assists.
Oakland Mills broke open a tight game by outscoring the Lions, )) 24-12, in the second quarter, to take a 36-28 halftime lead. The Lions trimmed two points off the lead at the end of the third period, then caught Oakland Mills on a 15-footer by Fulton that tied the score at 53-53 with 2:48 left.
The game was tied three more times after that, and Oakland Mills didn't break away for good until Willis hit her free throws to give the Scorpions a 61-59 lead.
Howard's Sharon Ford made a free throw with 36 seconds left to make the score 61-60. With 15 seconds left, Overton picked off a pass by Fulton. She was fouled four seconds later, then sank the free throw to clinch the victory.