For nearly three quarters last night, the upstart Parkville Knights showed 12th-ranked Randallstown how ball control, aggressive defense and smart shot selection can get the best of even the most talented team.
For the final 12 minutes, however, the Rams made a resounding statement of their own.
You can't keep a good team down.
Having lost the momentum and nearly a double-digit lead, the defending Class 3A state champions regained command, outscoring the Knights, 39-22, over the final 11:45 en route to an 83-62 victory in the Class 3A North region semifinals.
Randallstown (18-4) will travel to Dundalk -- a 68-38 winner over Bel Air in last night's other semifinal -- for tomorrow's regional championship game at 2 p.m.
To get there, however, the Rams had to outlast a fundamentally sound Parkville team that cut a 16-point deficit to four with 3:45 left in the third quarter.
"Our coach just told us to take the ball to the basket more and stop settling for the jump shot," said Rams forward Brian Broden. "We went to the basket a little harder and they weren't able to handle it."
Broden scored a game-high 29 points to complement 14 from center Lamont Clark and 11 from point guard Troy Lewis, as Randallstown turned a slow-paced game into a run-and-gun affair.
For Parkville coach Steve Baker, however, the 21-point loss was still a victory.
"We had been preparing from the beginning of the year for a
game against Randallstown or Woodlawn," said Baker. "All we wanted was a chance. For awhile, we had the tempo, the momentum and the crowd, but give [Randallstown] credit. They're a little bit quicker, a little bit stronger and they're capable shooters."
Early on, however, it looked as if Parkville (17-7) would fold.
Randallstown built early leads of 15-3, 24-9 and, by midway through the second quarter, 29-13. The Rams' press forced 13 turnovers in the first 12 minutes.
Trailing by 16, however, the Knights began to play. Center Paul Alderman (21 points) and guard Keith Glenn (17), led a 16-4 run over the next five minutes to cut Randallstown's lead to 33-29 just before halftime.
Then, trailing by 11 early in the third, Parkville again rallied, scoring seven straight to make it 44-40 with 3:45 left in the quarter.
"I think the fellows fell into Parkville-style basketball for a little while," said Rams coach Kim Rivers. "I held my breath for a minute, but once these guys started realizing that we could beat them on defense if we pushed the ball, we were able to play our game."