Largo storms back to stun Williamsport and claim the Maryland 2A state title

[READ ARTICLE IN THE WASHINGTON POST]

TOWSON, MD. — With the game tied and the clock ticking down to 52 seconds, Chance Graham saw Largo’s title hopes flash before her eyes. Graham, the catalyst of a 16-point second-half comeback, had four fouls and was charging toward Williamsport center Olivia Coleman, who had been left alone under the basket and was rising up for a wide-open lay-in off the inbounds pass.

“I thought I was about to foul out of the game,” Graham said. “I was really scared.”

Graham swatted Coleman’s shot and grabbed the rebound. The senior forward then raced to the other end, absorbed a foul, hit her first free throw and missed her second. Teammate Jocelyn Manning snared the miss, and senior guard Amel Duggin hit two free throws with six seconds left to seal a 59-58 victory at Towson’s SECU Arena. The triumph marked Largo’s third state title and its first since 2007.

After Saturday’s game, the No. 14 Lions (19-5) hoisted a trophy that seemed unattainable just 45 minutes earlier. Largo trailed by 16 after Coleman’s bucket to open the second half, and the blue-clad fans from near Hagerstown unleashed the type of delighted shouts that always come with blowout wins. Largo looked helpless on defense against the hard-driving Wildcats (22-5), who went 24 of 30 from the free throw line to enter halftime with a commanding 36-22 lead.

“I’ve never seen any team shoot 30 free throws in a half,” Largo Coach Ayana Ball-Ward said.

But the Lions roared back in the second half with a whirlwind full-court press, as Ball-Ward mitigated her team’s foul trouble and preserved its energy with constant substitution.

“We haven’t experienced that kind of press in a while,” Williamsport guard Eryn McVicker said.

The Lions held Williamsport without a field goal for six minutes bridging the third and fourth quarters, cutting their deficit to 44-41 on a layup from Stephanie Guihon to start the final period. Chance scored 15 of her game-high 20 points in the second half and added 14 rebounds to ignite the comeback, bullying her way inside despite picking up her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s game was a tale of two halves, reflecting a Largo season that spiraled downward after four straight losses to close December before the Lions stormed to 17 straight wins in 2016.

“We came out as a team and said, ‘This is not Largo basketball,’ ” said Guihon, reflecting on those early losses. “We know who we are, so we just went out there and proved it.”

On Saturday, all those early struggles were distant memories in a season the Lions will never forget.

“We went from the beginning of the season being at each other’s throats to being an actual family,” Ball-Ward said. “For them to come out on top is a true testament to what they’ve been about all season.”

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