As if Patuxent senior Charese Baldwin wasn't already doing enough for the Panthers on Thursday night in their 65-46 Maryland 3A South semifinal win over Northern, she decided she might as well play spy, too.
Four minutes were left in the game, and what had once been a 25-point lead for the Panthers had dwindled to nine.
Patuxent Coach John McGuffin decided to put his starters, Baldwin included, back in the game when Northern senior Susan Smith fouled out.
Northern junior forward Katie Faulkner, a friend and AAU teammate of Baldwin's, called her teammates together during Smith's substitution.
"She was just saying, 'Huddle up, huddle up,' but she didn't say who," said Baldwin, who drew a quick smile from Faulkner when she joined Northern's circle. "She said she didn't care if I was listening. She told them they had me and Amanda [Robinson]. They were playing us man-to-man and everyone else in zone. So I just told Amanda what she said."
It didn't really matter what Baldwin knew or what Northern tried. The hard-fighting Patriots simply had no answer for the Panthers' twin 6-foot-2-inch towers, who proved unstoppable. Baldwin finished with a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds; Robinson added 16 points and a game-high 20 rebounds.
"Domination. It was pure domination," Northern Coach Clarence Tennell said of their performance. "We tried to make adjustments, but there was just nothing we could do. We could not take them out of the game."
Patuxent advanced to face No. 6 Westlake at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Maryland 3A South Region final for a berth in the state semifinals. The Wolverines, in search of their third consecutive regional title, advanced Thursday with an equally impressive 55-26 win over Calvert. [Results of Saturday's game were not available at press time. Please see today's Sports section for coverage.]
"We came out and probably played our best team basketball of the whole year tonight," Westlake Coach Sean Anderson said. "We ran the offense well, reversed the ball when the shots weren't there, and I thought, defensively, we were outstanding."
Seniors Kaleigha Gray and Danielle Sturman and junior Nicole Hester each scored 10 points for Westlake, which limited Calvert to 11 first-half points.
In the other region semifinal, Patuxent held Northern to seven points in the opening half. The Panthers harassed the Patriots into 19 percent shooting from the field.
"We had a poor shooting night, but I can't explain it," Tennell said. "I don't have any answers right now. What's that saying? 'Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you'? Well, the bear took a big chunk out of our [butt] tonight."
Patuxent succeeded without sophomore Shamika Queen, its best one-on-one defender who also scores 9.9 points per game. Queen has missed all but two minutes of the Panthers' two playoff games with a sore left foot. X-rays were negative, but the possibility of a hairline fracture remains. Queen was questionable for Saturday's game.
"We played hard tonight for Shamika," Baldwin said Thursday. "She wasn't ready to go today, but we knew if we won for her there would be a chance she could be ready for Westlake."
The Wolverines, whose average margin of victory this season is 27.7 points, defeated the Panthers by margins of four and 11 points in their two meetings during the regular season.
"I can't even tell you how proud I am of this group of girls," Patuxent's McGuffin said. "To beat this Northern team, a team that never lets up, without Shamika really took contributions from every player on our team. And with or without Shamika in the final, you can bet we're going to get charged up and work our butts off to give Westlake a game. We've talked about it all year: This is Round 3."