Great Mills junior point guard Beth Woodburn executed a perfect stutter-step fake that gave her an opening and allowed her to draw a foul on Monday. Then she sank two free throws with 26 seconds remaining to seal a 30-27 victory over host Chopticon.
Ahead 28-25 in the final minute of the fourth period, Great Mills came out of a timeout and set up an inbounds play from the sideline in front of its bench. A line of Hornets players awaited a pass from forward Eunique Conner when Woodburn, standing first in line, faked to her left and broke hard toward the basket.
After catching a speeding pass, she took three dribbles and tried a layup, only to be swiped on the arm by Chopticon guard Mindy Morris, who chased from behind.
"I thought they would play a little off us," Woodburn said. "They were too close up, so I cut, stepped back court and she followed me and I went to the basket. I thought I was the decoy."
Standing coolly at the free throw line, the Hornets' leading scorer never fretted, sinking two free throws to put Great Mills ahead 30-25.
Braves forward Danielle Shea scored on a layup inside the paint to bring the score to within three with 13 seconds remaining, but Great Mills spread the ball around and ran out the clock.
Senior guard Amber Cutchember had given the Hornets a 28-25 lead at 3:28 in the fourth with a short jump shot near the left baseline. Woodburn said that breathing space helped her at the end.
"No pressure. We were up by three at that point," said Woodburn, who scored eight points and was two of two from the free-throw line. "I have a pretty good shot, and I have confidence in it. We practice shooting free throws every day. I heard the shouts from the Chopticon players, but I thought, 'Just get the ball in the hoop.' "
Chopticon Coach Tony Lisanti said his players overpursued on the sideline play in order to steal the ball or foul, but they bit too hard on the fake and couldn't recover.
Woodburn's clutch play came at the end of a low-scoring game rife with poor shooting. Each team produced its lowest scoring output of the season.
"I can't fault their defensive effort," Lisanti said of his players. "We didn't take advantage of opportunities. We missed our last five free throws. We didn't finish our opportunities. You have to do that if you want to be successful."
Chopticon senior guard Tiffany Proctor, who drove to the basket and was fouled, missed the first of a one-and-one attempt with 41 seconds remaining and Great Mills ahead 28-25. That gave the Hornets, who led 16-14 at halftime, another possession to extend their lead and run down the clock.
Lisanti said Proctor, who made 10 of 12 in the previous game against Patuxent, had an uncharacteristically rough shooting night, finishing with three points, all from free throws. Braves sophomore center Pam Musher finished with a team-high nine points.
But Lisanti still is waiting for one of his players to step forward and become a consistent go-to scorer. "We need to find someone to pick up the slack," he said. "Every team has adversity, but it's the way you respond to adversity."
Cutchember led the response for Great Mills. She finished with a game-high 12 points, scoring eight in the first period to push the Hornets ahead 10-7. She converted four of six free throws.
Great Mills Coach Brian Weisner said his team, which faces Patuxent on Friday, must convert better in the paint when players get open shots. He said it was difficult for his players to adjust to Chopticon's low-post help defense, which led to too many turnovers and forced shots by the Hornets.
"We still have a lot to work out," Weisner said. "We worked hard. We just need some better decisions with the ball. One of these days, our shots will start to fall."