Walkersville 40, DuVal 32
To ease the nerves of his young basketball team, Walkersville Coach Mike Mathis never mentioned that its opponent, fifth-ranked DuVal, held a Maryland record seven Class 2A championships and was seeking its fourth title in a five-year span.
The strategy paid off.
The 13th-ranked Lions dominated the perennial 2A champion from the start and left UMBC's RAC Arena with an impressive 40-32 victory today for their first championship in the school's first appearance in the final.
Sparked by its lone senior -- guard-forward Koffi Harrison, who finished with a game-high 16 points and five rebounds -- Walkersville (24-1) used a tenacious defense to force numerous turnovers and raced to a surprising 24-13 halftime advantage. The Lions then weathered a second-half rally by the Tigers.
"We never focused on [DuVal's] record," Mathis said, "and I never said anything about it. We simply did what we needed to do and put great defensive pressure on a great program."
Success for the tiny Frederick County school did not go unnoticed. Entering with a 19-game winning streak, fans from the county showed support by filling four sections of the arena. Nearly a half-hour before tip-off, a group of children sporting electric-blue Walkersville T-shirts furiously waved pom-poms.
After the Lions eliminated Aberdeen, 40-37, on Friday to earn a berth in the championship game, Frederick County's police department met the team bus as it entered the city and escorted it back to school.
"It's an awesome feeling," said Walkersville junior guard Chelsea Trout, who finished with 13 points. "We didn't want to let our community down. . . . They have been so supportive."
DuVal (21-3) outscored the Lions 12-6 in the third quarter to pull within 30-25 on the strength of senior center Jennifer Martin, who scored six of her eight points in the quarter.
But the Lions took advantage of two turnovers by DuVal at the start of the final quarter and got baskets from Harrison and junior guard Gina Casadei to increase their lead to 34-25. Casadei finished with four points and a game-high nine rebounds.
"They [Walkersville] played with intensity and heart," DuVal Coach Walter Clark said.
Senior guard Laquita Whitmire paced the Tigers with 10 points.