Urbana 55, P. Branch 54

On a day when she scored her 1,000th career point, Urbana senior guard Katie Armentrout once again showed what she means to the Hawks' program.

The four-year starting point guard made a buzzer-beating layup to lift Urbana to a 55-54 victory over No. 12 Paint Branch in the Maryland 3A West Region championship game yesterday in Burtonsville.

"This is a girl who is 62-18 as a starting point guard" in her career, Urbana Coach Chris Krivos said. "We want the ball in her hands all the time in that situation."

The Hawks (21-4) will play Gwynn Park Thursday at 7 p.m. in the state semifinal at UMBC. Paint Branch, which lost to Urbana in the region final for the second straight year, finished 18-6.

Armentrout had 19 points and, during the third quarter, became the third player in school history to score 1,000 points. After a missed Paint Branch shot with nine seconds remaining in the final quarter, Armentrout drove end to end and made the layup just before time expired to clinch Urbana's second straight region championship.

"I'm not going to be afraid to take that last shot," said Armentrout, who finished the game with 1,007 career points. "Coming in a region championship, this shot is about as exciting a shot as I've made."

A lively crowd stood for the frenetic final 97 seconds, when both teams had three possessions each.

With 55 seconds left, Paint Branch junior guard Elise Conway made a baseline drive for a layup to give the Panthers a 54-53 lead, and with 37 seconds left Panthers sophomore Amy Dodd rebounded an Urbana miss.

Paint Branch called a timeout with 15 seconds remaining to design a play for senior guard Robin Kantin (16 points).

But Kantin's off-balance shot with nine seconds left missed the rim, and Urbana freshman Nia Josiah got the rebound and quickly passed it to Armentrout, who drove for the winning basket.

Paint Branch's players and coaches stood motionless near their bench while Urbana's players, including Krivos, mobbed Armentrout at midcourt.

"They had the last shot and they made it," Paint Branch Coach Heather Podosek said. "It was a great game. . . . You just hate to lose this way."

The Panthers led the entire first half behind Kantin, who had 13 of her 16 points in the half. But Urbana surged back behind senior Jessica Mills (game-high 21 points and 10 rebounds).

In the second half, the teams engaged in a tug-of-war, trading the lead 11 times as both squads relied on savvy guard play and gritty interior play. During one stretch of the third quarter, the lead changed hands on five straight possessions.