Shamara Adams didn't expect the ball to make its way to her, but she was ready for it.

In the end, that may have made the difference in the Great Mills girls' basketball team's season.

Adams's layup with 2.7 seconds remaining lifted the Hornets past host Lackey, 43-42, on Tuesday night for their second Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title in three years.

It also denied Lackey its first SMAC title since 1978.

A season-long collision course between the conference's top teams came down to a few critical moments.

Lackey missed two free throws with 9.5 seconds left, and the Hornets had one last chance. Ashley Lindsey pushed the ball upcourt and spotted Adams open under the basket before a gang of Lackey defenders surrounded her.

"Ashley brought the ball downcourt, and I thought she was going to take the shot, but she dished it to me, and I wanted to win," Adams said.

Though Adams might have pictured herself hitting the decisive shot, few could have pictured Great Mills in such a position a few months ago.

The Hornets (20-2, 15-1) were 2-2 in early December, having dropped a conference game in the season opener.

But they pulled together, playing a selfless style: No player averaged more than 10 points this season.

"This year is different," said Lindsey, one of three holdovers from the 2005 title team. "It was a great team [in 2005], but it only revolved around one player. Everybody's involved [this season]. It's like a family."

Although it handled most of its competition relatively comfortably during its 18-game winning streak, Great Mills was tested from the onset Tuesday.

Behind 12 points from Simone Williams and the early sharpshooting of guard Brittani Brown, who scored all nine of her points in the first quarter, Lackey (18-4, 14-2) jumped to a 21-11 lead midway through the second quarter.

But the Hornets' defense -- the backbone of their success this season -- kept it close. The Hornets limited Lackey to 10 points between the second and third quarters and closed the third quarter on a 6-0 run to take their first lead since the opening basket.

"We do that a lot. We end up going on our streaks, our spurts," said Great Mills junior guard Megan Matheny. "But usually we're not used to being down at the half. The last 17 games now, I don't think we've been down at the half. But during halftime, we knew we couldn't drop our heads."

Matheny, who came to Great Mills this season after playing at St. Mary's Ryken, played a crucial role on Tuesday. Her 16 points tied a season high, and she pulled down eight rebounds and blocked Lackey's desperation shot at the last second.

"Ever since the last time we played Lackey, she's played every opponent's toughest guard," Great Mills Coach Brian Weisner said. "So at times her offense is lacking, because she's played so hard on defense. Tonight she worked extremely hard on defense and was able to bring the offense with her."