The glass slipper still fits Howard.
Last night, the No. 17 Lions continued their Cinderella run at a state title with a 58-45 victory over No. 9 Randallstown in a Class 3A semifinal at UMBC.
The fourth-seeded Lions (15-11) were just 9-11 two weeks ago before hitting a winning streak that included upset victories over Broadneck, Mount Hebron and Poly in the regional playoffs.
"The same thing won this game for us that won at Mount Hebron and Poly -- we just won't quit. We'll just stay in their face and try to wear them down," said Howard coach Craig O'Connell.
A tight man-to-man defense and 49 percent shooting combined to send the Lions to the state finals for the first time. Last year, they lost in the semifinal in their first appearance in the state final four.
The Lions advance to tomorrow's 8 p.m. championship against third-seed DuVal from Prince George's County. The Tigers, who won the state Class 3A title in 1991, beat second-seeded Walt Whitman, 54-50, in the other Class 3A semifinal.
Last night, Howard got a strong performance from 5-foot-9 junior forward Mona Jackson, who led the team with 22 points. But it would be hard to pick a most valuable player, because each of the Lions stepped up when she had to.
Emily Moore and Megan Boehm (eight points each), Yamika Blackston and Rebecca Powell (seven points each) and Chanelle Carter (four points) all played important roles in the win.
"When someone's down, someone else comes up and fills the gap," said Moore.
Moore and Powell shared the tough assignment of trying to contain Rams powerhouse Nyota Mitchell, a 6-1 forward/guard averaging 29.8 points. Mitchell still managed 23 points, but none of her teammates scored more than eight.
Randallstown coach Dave Wright said the pressure got to his team, making its first final four appearance.
"They were ready to play in a pressure cooker like this and we weren't," said the rookie coach. "We panicked. We had some opportunities in the third quarter when we cut the lead to four, but we took some dumb shots. It's obvious [Howard] is used to playing tough competition."
The top-seeded Rams (21-3), trailing by 12 points midway through the third quarter, cut the margin to 40-36 when Mitchell banked in a short jumper. But the Rams missed their last four shots of the quarter, including two three-point attempts by Mitchell.
Boehm and Jackson hit back-to-back layups to give Howard a 44-36 lead after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, the Rams never got closer. Howard finished off Randallstown with a 12-2 run for a 58-40 lead with 1:40 left. The Lionsall but sealed the win when Powell hit Blackston for a 20-footer and Jackson went end-to-end for a layup to give the Lions a 15-point lead with 4:27 to go.
The Lions, who usually shoot less than 30 percent from the field, looked especially impressive in the first half, hitting 14 of 26 to take a 32-22 lead.
They made their first break on eight unanswered points in 50 seconds to go ahead 30-18 late in the second quarter.
The Rams hit just seven of 24 shots in the first half and finished with a 31 percentage on 21-of-67 shooting.