Wilde Lake can't keep up with Milford Mill, 68-54

March 13, 1994|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,Sun Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Wilde Lake took its best shot but came up short against Milford Mill (23-0) in the state Class 1A championship game yesterday at Cole Field House.

For the third straight year Milford Mill beat the Wildecats in postseason play -- but for the first time in the state championship game.

The 68-54 loss dashed Wilde Lake's hopes of becoming the first two-time Howard County state champion. The Wildecats won in 1985 and lost in 1974, 1978 and 1991. No. 3-ranked Milford Mill won its second state title in three years and third overall.

The unranked Wildecats, noted for their come-from-behind style and knack for winning close games, were in deep trouble after Blanchard Hurd's rebound basket put the Millers ahead 55-38 to start the fourth quarter.

This time the hole was too deep to dig out of. An 11-2 run led by Seth Willingham (18 points) cut Milford Mill's lead to 57-49. Willingham scored nine of the 11 points during the run.

But the Wildecats then missed a series of opportunities and fell ++ to the 6-foot-7 Hurd's 19-point second-half scoring binge.

"If there's one thing that characterizes our team it's that it never quits," Wilde Lake coach Paul Ellis said. "We were down by 17 points with five minutes left to play against Howard and lost by only three points. So we knew we could come back."

The fourth-quarter run finally fell apart when the Wildecats failed to score on four straight possessions even though Milford Mill went scoreless during that time.

On successive possessions, Hurd blocked a shot, the Wildecats missed two shots and a Wildecats player knocked the rebound out of a teammate's hand and out of bounds. Also, a steal by Brian Sterling was wasted by a turnover.

Milford Mill then regained its composure on two baskets by Jermaine Dunn (10 points, 17 rebounds) and another by Hurd (26 points, 11 rebounds), and it was suddenly a 63-49 game with two minutes left.

"Their press bothered us a little in the fourth quarter because we didn't expect it," Dunn said. "They hurt us with it."

Wilde Lake (14-11) was hoping to keep the game close. The Wildecats were 9-1 in games decided by six or fewer points, 3-0 in games decided by one point, and won their only overtime game.

But it hurt when Wilde Lake's 6-foot-7 sophomore center Carl Jackson sat out most of the first half in foul trouble.

Jackson said: "Hurd was hard to guard because he was constantly spinning. This was a big team and I wanted to be out there playing in the first half despite the two fouls. When we made our run in the fourth quarter I thought we could win it. But they turned our run around."

It was the first time all season the Wildecats lost when Willingham scored at least 18 points. They were 11-0 in those games.

"Everyone is happy we made it here and we just got beat by a great team," Willingham said. "I thought we'd get them."

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