Youthful Milford Mill falls short in title bid

Gwynn Park sends Millers to 5th straight defeat in championship game, 59-43

Girls Class 3A final

March 10, 2002|By Nathan Max | Nathan Max,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Milford Mill has been the surprise team in this season's girls basketball playoffs, but that doesn't make losing another championship game any easier.

Last night, an overachieving Millers team that starts two freshmen and three juniors, fell to Gwynn Park of Prince George's County, 59-43, in the Class 3A championship game before an estimated crowd of 2,000 at UMBC's RAC Arena.

It marked the fifth straight season Milford Mill has reached - and lost - the 3A final. In the 30-year history of the girls basketball tournament, no other school has lost more than two consecutive championship games.

The difference this season, however, was perhaps nobody thought Milford Mill (21-6) could come this far. The Millers returned just one starter, guard Candyce Jeter, and had to overcome a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to get past Fallston in their first playoff game.

"We didn't expect to be here. We're young, and I have them all back next year," said Milford Mill coach Pam Wright, who has coached all five of the championship defeats. "I'm not upset. Of course I want to win, and it's a disappointment to lose. But I'm still proud of them. They did well. They did a good job. Hopefully, we'll be back again."

Freshman guard Tammy Rogers scored a team-high 15 points and junior forward Qiana Cheatham added 14 points and six rebounds for Milford Mill. The Millers, whose eight-game winning streak ended, struggled from the field, shooting just 24 percent.

Senior guard Danielle Evans scored a game-high 23 and had the Yellow Jackets' first nine points to start the fourth quarter as Gwynn Park (25-2) won its first state championship in its first appearance in the final since 1988.

Center Charmaine Carr, who will be playing at the University of Maryland next season, added 11 points and a game-high 16 rebounds for Gwynn Park.

"They were pretty big,"` said Cheatham, who was 4-for-19 from the floor. "So you really couldn't get the ball, even if you jumped for it. And they boxed out pretty well. We didn't box out well enough."

Milford Mill started slowly, falling fell behind by 19-6 after a 10-2 Gwynn Park run over the final 2:28 of the first quarter and opening 40 seconds of the second quarter. The Millers fought back in the second quarter, using a 7-0 run to close to 24-21 following a four-point play by Cheatham and a free throw and transition layup by Rogers.

Gwynn Park closed the half and started the third quarter on a 14-3 run, however, to move ahead 38-24. Evans and Carr combined for 10 of Gwynn Park's 14 points during that stretch, and the Millers came no closer than 11 thereafter.

"We weren't expected to get here," Cheatham added. "We've got heart. Everybody loses. All good teams lose. We were hoping that this year would be our year. We had a well-rounded team. We're going to have the same team next year, so we're going to work harder to try and win."

GWYNN PARK - Hyson 2, Evans 23, Johnson 7, Watson 8, Carr 11, Arrington 8. Totals 22 13-23 59.

MILFORD MILL - Rogers 15, Ca. Jeter 6, Cheatham 14, Scott 4, Gordon 4. Totals 14 13-21 43. Half: GP, 30-22.

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