Randallstown coach Dave Wright did not do any advance scouting on Howard.
He probably should have.
No. 17 Howard, which advanced to the Class 3A state semifinals as the sixth seed in its region, moved within one game of its first state title after defeating the ninth-ranked Rams, 58-45, at UMBC last night.
The Lions (15-11) will meet DuVal -- which upset Walt Whitman, 54-50, yesterday -- in the championship game tomorrow at 8 p.m.
Howard's trek through the playoffs has been sparked by its full-court man-to-man defense.
The Rams (20-3), making their first appearance in the state semifinals, were not used to the Lions' defensive intensity and it showed.
Randallstown, which came into the game averaging 66 points, shot just 31 percent from the field and committed 20 turnovers.
"It's different than what I'm using to seeing," Wright said. "We've never seen this in Baltimore County."
Howard, however, has faced defensive pressure all season. In Howard County, the Lions play some of the area's toughest defensive teams.
"It's obvious this team is used to playing tough competition," Wright said. "They were ready to play in a pressure-cooker like this and we weren't. They're just a better team than we were."
The Lions, winners of six straight, came into the game averaging 42.8 points per game and were shooting 29.8 percent from the field.
Last night, Howard was 26-for-54 from the field (48 percent).
Junior forward Mona Jackson scored 22 -- nearly 10 points above her average -- to lead the Lions.
Randallstown senior guard/forward Nyota Mitchell, the area's leading scorer with 29.8 average, scored a game-high 23.
Jackson's driving layup off her steal gave Howard a 40-28 lead with 5:06 remaining in the third quarter.
But the Rams came storming back.
Mitchell scored six points in an 8-0 Randallstown spurt that pulled the Rams within four.
Howard pushed its lead back to 44-36 after three quarters and used a 9-2 run at the start of the fourth quarter to pull away.
"We just won't quit. We'll just stay in their face and try to wear them down," Howard coach Craig O'Connell said.
After Mitchell's drive to the basket pulled Randallstown within 22-18 with 5:01 remaining in the first half, Jackson took over.
She grabbed the rebound and scored after Megan Boehm missed the second of two free throws. Jackson then hit a three-pointer.
Rebecca Powell hit a jumper inside the key after another Rams turnover, before Jackson scored again on a short jumper to extend Howard's lead to 32-20 with 1:40 left in the second quarter.