COLLEGE PARK - Kim River's Randallstown squad had held the lead in the game, albeit by no more than five points, until there was 5:44 to play. That's when Westlake of Charles County took a one-point advantage. But instead of panicking, Rivers told his 11th-ranked Rams simply to "go have fun."
"I told them, `That's what we're here for,' " said the seventh-year coach, whose Rams were runner-up to champion Paint Branch last winter. "I told them, `You're the ones who have been here before, so let's show them how it's done.' The experience, that was the difference."
And it showed in a game-clinching 12-0 run for a 61-52 Class 3A semifinal victory by the Rams (19-5) over the Wolverines (23-3). The triumph earned Randallstown a berth in Saturday's state finals at 3 p.m. against Thomas Johnson (20-5), which beat Crossland (19-6) in yesterday's other semifinal.
Randallstown's 6-foot-5 Brandon Moragne-El scored 16 points on 8-for-10 field-goal shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds; 5-11 guard Levi Stokes scored 12 points and grabbed 13 rebounds; and 6-4 Antoine Jordan scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds in a game that was tied 10 times, the last, at 34-34 early in the third period.
Randy Starks, a 6-4 wide body, led the Wolverines with 21 points and nine rebounds, and 6-7 Lavon Chisley had 13 points and 11 rebounds for Westlake, which trailed from 7:13 of the second period until Starks' steal and layup gave it a 50-49 lead with 5:44 to play.
But Randallstown, which held a 48-33 advantage in rebounds, responded with its biggest run of the afternoon, including four points each from Moragne-El and Stokes, and two each from Jordan and 6-6 Chris Wilson (eight points). The Rams led 61-50 with 1:54 to play.
"We needed 57 to 60 rebounds and we didn't get them," said Westlake coach Jimmy Ball. "We killed them inside [with his team's ability to get the ball to its big men], but they killed us on the boards."
The game was tied five times before Westlake scored two straight for a 14-10 lead with 2:11 left in the first period. Stokes' layup and a put-back jumper by Brian McCray tied it for the sixth time at 14, and the teams traded baskets for a 16-16 tie heading into the second period.
Wilson and Moragne-El figured more into the game in the second period, scoring six and four points, respectively, but, more importantly, challenging Starks and Chisley.
Trailing 40-37 with 4:04 left in the third period, Starks picked up two fouls in a matter of seconds, giving him three with 3:53 left in the period.
"He couldn't play as aggressively as he had in the first half at that point," said Rivers, whose team led by five points on three occasions after baskets by Jordan (42-37) , Moragne-El (44-39) and Breaux (46-41), the last for the lead heading into the fourth.
R-Stokes 12, McMillion 6, Moragne-El 16, Jordan 12, Reid 2, McCray 2, Wilson 8, Breaux 3. Totals: 28 5-15 61.
W-Bonnett 4, Starks 21, Chisley 13, Jones 8, Satter- white 4, McKinley 2. Totals 24 4-8 52. Half: R, 34-30.