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TOWSON – The Milford Mill Academy Millers from Baltimore County opened up the floodgates early in Thursday night's Class 3A girls basketball state semifinal at Towson University's SECU Arena versus the Westlake Wolverines with a 17-point first-quarter lead, thanks to its three-point shooting and aggressive full-court pressure on defense.
Westlake still trailed 41-29 at halftime, but cut the deficit to 47-40 with 2 minutes 22 seconds left in the third.
Milford Mill ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 54-40 lead after three quarters and eventually extended the lead to 23 by midway through the final period.
The Millers eventually cruised to the 75-53 victory, ending the Wolverines' season.
Milford Mill (25-1 overall), which averaged almost 74 points per game and only allowing almost 38 points a game coming into Thursday's contest, forced Westlake into tough shots all game long despite the early third quarter comeback from the Wolverines.
The Millers advance to their first state championship game since 2005 when they take on Damascus of Montgomery County on Saturday night. Damascus, the 3A West champion, earned the 49-37 victory over Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, the 3A East champion, in Thursday's other state semifinal.
Westlake, the 3A South Region champion, dug itself in a hole early as 3A North champion Milford Mill exploded for a 26-9 first quarter led by junior guard Dionna White and senior guard Kelli Smoot's 18 combined points in the quarter.
The Wolverines outscored the Millers 20-15 in the second and closed to within seven points in the third, but they could not hold off high octane offense and full-court pressure from the Millers.
"Westlake reminds me a lot of my team. They are athletic and they are fast," Milford Mill head coach DeToiya McAliley said. "They have slashers and shooters and just have the total package. We just wanted to minimize what they had and jump on them early. That was one of our best first quarters this season, that really set the tone for us."
Milford Mill nailed seven three-pointers as a team in the contest. It led by White with a game-high 30 points, scoring 16 points in the second half. Senior guards Qierra Murray and Smoot finished with 16 and 15 points respectively for the Millers.
Milford Mill shot 24 of 51 (47 percent) from the field as a team for the game.
"We just moved the ball when [Westlake] went zone and got the shot that we wanted," said White, who also grabbed nine rebounds and knocked down 9 of 10 free throws.
Milford Mill's full-court pressure forced Westlake into 27 turnovers and scored 33 points of those turnovers, and received 22 points from its bench in the process. The Millers only committed 13 turnovers, with only four in the first half.
Westlake (22-4) was led by senior guard and Towson commit Shanea Butler with a team-high 14 points, while sophomore guard Alexus Willey added 11 points. Senior Damira Banks added seven points for the Wolverines.
"I wouldn't trade any of this for the world," Butler said. "I love my team and we worked hard as we could. We came up short of reaching our goal of playing for a state championship, but we keep our heads up high."
“I'm not upset because we didn't give up and gave it all we had," Banks said. "We just got out to a slow start and had some turnovers."
The Wolverines ended the season, winning five out of the last six games, and claimed its second 3A South title in three seasons.
"The season went great. We had one of the best seasons in Westlake history," said Westlake head coach Ardell Jackson, who led the Wolverines to the state semifinals in his first season in 2012. "We knew Milford Mill was a good team and they did their job. We kept fighting and fighting and never gave up. We are going to build off of this and come back here next year."
Milford Mill 75, Westlake 53
Milford Mill 26 15 13 21
Westlake 9 20 11 13
Milford Mill: White 30, Murray 16, Smoot 15, McKenzie 5, Thompson 4, Lewis 3, Terry 2
Westlake: Butler 14, Willey 11, Banks 7, Perminter 6, Curtis 5, Gregory 5, Hill 4, Smoot 1
Free throws: Milford Mill 20-30 (White 9-10, McKenzie 3-4); Westlake 10-19 (Butler 4-5)
3-point goals: Milford Mill 7 (Murray 3, Smoot 3, White); Westlake 3 (Willey 2, Gregory)