Thomas Stone junior guard Michael Briscoe had been held to two points before his three-pointer from the top of the key beat the halftime buzzer, gave Stone a one-point lead and finally got him into the flow of the first Maryland 3A semifinal at Comcast Center on Thursday.

“That gave me a lot of confidence because it was hard to get my shot off in the first half,” Briscoe said. “After that I was able to see where the holes in the defense were.”

Briscoe scored 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half and No. 9 Thomas Stone overcame a slow start to beat No. 16 Centennial, 69-61, to advance to the state final for the second time in three years. The Cougars (25-1) will face Patterson (20-7) and electrifying point guard Aquille Carr on Saturday at 3 p.m.

The 3A South champion Cougars had a noticeable advantage in both size and athleticism, but it took a 12-2 run in the third quarter to finally put some distance between them and Centennial (21-6), the 3A East champ.

“We had to be patient,” Thomas Stone Coach Dale Lamberth said. “They came in with a good game plan to slow us up a little bit, so we had to get more methodical.”

Senior guard Keonte Potts scored a game-high 22 points and junior forward Timi Tinuoye added 19 points and 16 rebounds for Centennial, which was playing in its second consecutive state tournament after qualifying for the first time in school history last year.

“We did a good job most of the game containing them in transition, which we knew was something they were incredible at,” Centennial Coach Chad Hollwedel said. “When they got a couple easy ones, we started to play too fast.”

PATTERSON 70, TUSCARORA 46: With a sizable portion of their student body cheering on the team’s first state semifinal appearance, the Titans (20-6) were unable to continue their thrilling run after winning three playoff games last week by a total of 11 points.

Carr, who spent the early-morning hours in a Baltimore hospital waiting for the birth of his daughter, scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the first half as Patterson built a 30-17 lead.

Kwa McDonald led Tuscarora with 11 points.

Patterson (20-7) lost to North Point in last year’s 4A final.