CATONSVILLE — North Point junior Khaila Prather took a pounding in the lane throughout Thursday’s Maryland 4A girls’ basketball state semifinal, battling inside with Eleanor Roosevelt forwards Sandra Okafor and Tolu Omokore.
With the shot clocking winding down late in overtime, Prather had no choice but to attack the basket one more time. The 6-foot-2 forward drew the foul and made the go-ahead free throw with 12 seconds left as third-ranked North Point held off No. 10 Eleanor Roosevelt, 57-55, Thursday at UMBC’s RAC Arena.
In a sloppy, frenetic game, Prather anchored the middle with 11 points and 11 rebounds, helping the Eagles earn their first trip to the state final after losses in the semifinals each of the past two seasons. They will face Baltimore Polytechnic in the final on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Engineers downed Whitman, 33-32, earlier in the day.
“I can’t even explain it,” said senior Tasia Butler, her eyes filling with tears. “It’s like finally climbing that mountain and getting to the top.”
A year ago, North Point arrived at the state tournament with only one loss, but had its furious rally come up short in the final seconds of a 64-62 loss to Wise. The Eagles (26-0) weren’t denied this time, rallying from a deficit that reached nine in the third quarter with a smothering full-court press. Eleanor Roosevelt (24-2) had a season-high 41 turnovers.
“If it’s not running, if it’s not going on all cylinders, you’ve got to be able to battle,” North Point Coach Mike Serpone said.
North Point never led in the second half but tied it with 1 minute 53 seconds left and headed to overtime when Butler (team-high 14 points) missed from the baseline in the final seconds of a tie game.
●BALT. POLY 33, WHITMAN 32: With her team trailing by three with less than three seconds to play, Vikings guard Kim Durante spotted up on the left perimeter — awaiting the pass that could lead to a three-pointer that would send Whitman to overtime against Baltimore Polytechnic in Thursday’s Maryland 4A state semifinal.
Durante hit a three one minute earlier to cut the deficit to three points, and this was exactly the type of game Whitman had grown accustomed to winning late in the season.
But the pass intended for Durante was deflected and tipped into the paint. She rushed from behind the three-point line into the key, picked up the loose ball, and flipped in a layup just before the buzzer sounded to end Poly’s win at UMBC’s RAC Arena.
“I was hoping for a foul,” Durante said, fighting back tears after the game.
Whitman (21-5) hit just 11 of 40 shots and committed 26 turnovers, but the Vikings used a series of runs in the second half to stay close. The Lady Engineers (22-4) led 25-19 late in the third quarter, but the Vikings closed the frame with baskets on three straight possessions — then took a 27-25 lead on a Dani Okon (eight points) layup to start the fourth.
Tiera Pendleton triggered an 8-0 Poly run, and Whitman didn’t score again until Durante’s baseline three-pointer cut the deficit to 33-30 with 1:15 remaining. She set up a few feet from that spot on the game’s final possession. Durante finished with a game-high 11 points.