Hammond girls basketball coach Joe Russo stared at the trophy with a look of disbelief.
"State champions," said Russo, shaking his head. "This is an overwhelming feeling."
The Golden Bears wound up a dream season yesterday with a 56-51 victory over Glenelg in the Class 2A championship at Catonsville Community College to win their first state title.
The Bears (22-4), who start two freshmen and two sophomores and showed poise beyond their years by beating defending state champion Mount Hebron last week to win the Region II title.
They responded again yesterday, only it was Glenelg (18-7) applying the pressure. The Gladiators, who split two decisions with Hammond during the regular season, trailed by as many as 12 points in both halves. But Glenelg refused to go quietly.
And after Hammond starters Kacy Williams, Sonia Keiner and Tameka Harrison got into foul trouble in the second half, Glenelg nearly took the title.
Trailing 50-43 with five minutes left in the game, Glenelg forced three straight Hammond turnovers and ran off six unanswered points to cut the lead to 50-49 with 3:32 left. Harrison had fouled out, and Glenelg senior guard Tanissa Dorsey (game-high 22 points) was headed to the free-throw line with a chance to give Glenelg its first lead since the game's opening minutes.
But Dorsey missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Bears rebounded and called a timeout. Hammond then scored six straight points to win its eighth straight game and clinch Russo's first state title in 20 years of coaching football, track and girls basketball.
"I couldn't see us losing," said Kacy Williams, Hammond's sophomore point guard who led the Bears with 14 points, seven steals and six assists. "We were too close and it had been too much of a good season. I knew I had to start moving again."
Williams spent five minutes on the bench in the second half in foul trouble and played the final six minutes with four fouls. But she also made the game's biggest basket immediately following the timeout, when she hit a six-foot bank shot to give Hammond a 52-49 lead with 3:10 left.
The Bears then finished the job where they dominated the game -- on the offensive boards. Freshman guard Tiki Nicholson (11 points, 10 rebounds) grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a short jumper to make it 54-49. And with 2:05 left, Keiner (12 points, 9 rebounds), a sophomore forward, made a layup off an offensive rebound and the score was 56-49.
Hammond out-rebounded the Gladiators 40-26, including 18-6 at the offensive end.
"I knew we were going to win this game," said Hammond junior forward Kristen Moraz, the team's veteran who scored 10 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. "And we knew they [Glenelg] were going to do anything to win it. We were prepared for that."
GLENELG -- Dorsey 22, Leedom 8, Jones 13, Snyder 8. Totals: 20 11-20 51.
HAMMOND -- Garlick 2, Williams 14, Moraz 10, Nicholson 11, Harrison 7, Keiner 12. Totals: 23 10-16 56.
Glenelg 7 12 16 16 -- 51
Hammond 15 10 20 11 -- 56