Milford Mill beats Westlake to gain 5th straight final

Cheatham's 20 help Millers end 21-game run

Girls Class 3A semifinals

March 08, 2002|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Milford Mill's girls basketball players don't know they're supposed to be too young and not tournament-tested enough to win a state championship.

So with only one starter back from last year's state finalist team, the Millers defeated Westlake, 66-46, in the Class 3A semifinals last night and find themselves one step away from the title for a fifth straight year.

The Millers turned in a fine team performance led by Qiana Cheatham's 20 points and 16 rebounds to earn a spot in tomorrow's 8 p.m. final against Gwynn Park, a 62-44 winner over Urbana in yesterday's other semifinal at UMBC.

Young or not, the Millers' goal is clear.

"We want to win the states," said junior Candyce Jeter, whose team has been to four straight Class 3A finals without a win. "We don't want to come all this far and not win."

The Millers (21-5), who also beat the Wolverines in last year's semifinal, face a tough battle against Gwynn Park, a Prince George's County team ranked No. 2 in The Washington Post.

"We've got a job ahead of us," said Milford Mill coach Pam Wright, who has no seniors on her roster and starts two freshmen. "It would have to be a real, real, real good game with everything going good for us to pull this off. They're a good team all-around, but my kids are motivated, so you don't know. Things happen."

The Millers will look to carry over some of the momentum from last night. In addition to Cheatham's performance, Candyce Jeter added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Both starting freshman also contributed - Chelsea Jeter with 10 points and six steals and Tammy Rogers with eight points and six steals.

The Millers, who ended a 21-game Westlake winning streak, broke away early and the Wolverines (21-3) could not counter their quickness or their zone press.

When Candyce Jeter nailed a three-pointer with 6:05 left in the game, the Millers led 61-40, but they took control much earlier, running up a 13-point lead early in the second quarter.

"They're quick. That's the one thing we just haven't seen," said Wolverines coach Connie Harris, whose team had 34 turnovers. "We didn't play in a Christmas tournament and we just don't have those kind of quick teams in our conference. That was a little bit tough for us."

The Wolverines came closest to a comeback late in the second quarter when they cut the lead to 34-26, but the Millers rallied with a 20-8 run that boosted their lead to 54-36 by late in the third quarter.

Milford Mill, which shot 40 percent from the field in the first half, used a 12-2 spurt to spark an initial run that boosted the lead to 14-4. In one early stretch, the Millers hit eight straight shots and finished the first half 10-for-16 from the field. With 11 first-quarter points from Cheatman, Milford led 23-15 at the end of the period.

"I was just like I need a break someplace and it was just not coming," said Harris. "With Milford Mill, it doesn't matter that she has only one returning off her starting lineup last time. She coaches well and her kids respond. They play well."

The Millers boosted their first-half lead as high as 34-21, before the Wolverines went on a 7-0 spurt to cut the lead to six. But the Millers finished the half with six unanswered points and a 40-28 edge.

In the other Class 3A semifinal, Gwynn Park (23-2) got 21 points and 16 rebounds from Maryland-bound 6-foot-1 senior center Charmaine Carr as it took control early. They led by 45-30 at the end of the third quarter.

WESTLAKE - Huffman 7, Thompson 8, Gray 2, Hester 17, Sturman 8, Bertagnolli 4. Totals 19 8-20 46.

MILFORD MILL -Rogers 8, Ca. Jeter 16, Cheatham 20, Ch. Jeter 10, Gordon 6, Cates 4, Carson 2. Totals 26 11-20 66. Half: MM, 40-28.

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