In the days leading up to last night's Baltimore County championship game between Randallstown and Woodlawn, there wasn't much talk between the players, who are longtime rivals. Both wanted the play on the court to do the talking.
Down the stretch, it was Woodlawn that spoke resoundly as the host and No. 6 Warriors defeated the No. 7 Rams, 88-71, before a capacity crowd.
William Epps led Woodlawn (21-1) with 24 points. Aaron Ragsale added 18 and junior point guard Gabriel Brooks scored 14. Demon Brown scored a game-high 34 points for Randallstown (18-4).
In winning their 21st consecutive game, the Warriors repeated as county champions and completed the season sweep over the Rams. Woodlawn won the first meeting, 69-62, in the finals of the Wes Unseld Tournament at Catonsville Community College in December.
The Warriors put Randallstown away midway in the final quarter, going on a 10-0 run, turning a 67-61 lead into 77-61 with 1: 56 remaining.
"We had to capitalize on their mistakes when they made them," said Woodlawn first-year coach Bobby Richardson. "We couldn't afford not to take advantage of their turnovers. We made sure we took good shots and have good time management."
Most expected Randallstown and Woodlawn to be battling for the championship. Both dominated county competition during the regular season.
While Randallstown has been mostly carried by the play of Brown, Woodlawn has had a balanced attack, which was a key factor in the second meeting last night.
Brown, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, and Venable were the only double-digit scorers for Randallstown, while Woodlawn had five reach double figures, including Brooks (14 points), Paul Kwajafa (13) and Damon Garris (12) to go along with Epps and Ragsdale.
Randallstown was within 60-56 on a layup by Brown with 6: 40 remaining in regulation. Woodlawn scored five straight as three different players scored to build a nine-point margin.
Venable rebounded a miss by Brown and scored, helping Randallstown cut the Woodlawn lead to 67-61 with 4: 34 remaining in the game. Then the Rams started to fall apart.
In a three-minute stretch, Randallstown missed six straight shots and turned the ball over twice. The Warriors ran off 10 straight points, mostly in transition, sending the Woodlawn faithful into frenzy. Randallstown never recovered.
"They wanted it more," said Randallstown coach Kim Rivers, whose team has lost two straight. "We made a couple of mental mistakes. They [Woodlawn] are playing with more confidence. I have confidence in my team, but they needed it within themselves."
Randallstown was in control early, building a 33-25 advantage after a dunk by Venable. The lead was 39-33, but Woodlawn rallied with six straight points to tie the game at halftime, highlighted by a dunk by Garris on a pass off of the backboard by Brooks.
"That play really got us going," said Brooks, a transfer from Carver. "We came out and attacked them on defense and got our running game going."
Woodlawn carried the momentum into the second half, building a 55-46 lead with 2: 51 remaining in the third quarter. The Rams made a late surge to pull to within 58-54 after three quarters.
"Basketball is played in spurts, they had theirs and we had ours," said Richardson, a former player at UMBC. "When they broke down, we were ready to respond."
Pub Date: 2/23/97