The New Town boys basketball team had a fair amount of pressure to contend with when it traveled to Dulaney in Baltimore County's biggest game of the season Wednesday.
The No. 6 Titans, with starting forward Julian Reese out with the flu, had to execute their game plan in a noisy gym that favored the home team. They had to solve the No. 5 Lions' pestering defense and all the quality options they featured on offense. And they knew this game — with both teams undefeated in Baltimore County's Division I — would go a long way in deciding who will play for the county championship.
Pressure for New Town? It was all handled with total efficiency.
The Titans were assertive from the start, finding separation just before the half and then pouring it on with an 11-1 run to start the third quarter. By the time Andrew Mills hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds, giving him a game-high 31 points, the Titans left Dulaney's gym with a convincing 78-54 win.
New Town improved to 13-1 overall and 7-0 in the division, while Dulaney, which got a team-high 21 points from Ryan Conway, fell to 11-2 and 6-1.
Quick and responsible team defense, confidence handling the Lions' defensive pressure, the awareness to make the extra pass and good shooting all played a part in the Titans' big win.
"Unbelievable effort — that's the hardest game we've played all season and the best game we've played all season," New Town first-year coach Derek Wise said. "It started at practice. We had three great days of practice where we were locked in, we bought in and followed the game plan. And we just wanted it more. We played hard and I couldn't be more proud of the guys."
In the first quarter, Mills looked like he was in for a big game on offense with 11 points, including three 3-pointers. After Maurice Smith (13 points) put his stamp on the game with a couple of baskets and free throws early in the second quarter, Mills connected on another 3 in the left corner as time expired in a first half that ended with the Titans leading 37-26.
The Lions can score in a hurry and the deficit wasn't insurmountable, but it was New Town that showed it wanted the win more at the start of the third quarter.
First came another 3 from Mills. Then Martaz Robinson found Kyree Johnson for an easy inside basket. Mills went inside for a dunk and Johnson got ahead of the defense for an easy two points in transition. When the Titans easily got past the Lions' press again, Jordan Guerrero finished with a layup from Robinson to extend the lead to 48-27 midway through the third quarter.
"All week long, we just prepared because we knew it was going to be a challenge to go against a couple good guards," Mills said. "We just had that mentality that we won't lose this game if we played defense and that was the key."
As for his offensive performance, he added: "I'm becoming really confident in my scoring ability. I feel like I can score at all three levels."
Dulaney coach Matt Lochte said he will see what his team is made of with the choice of learning from the experience or falling further. He's confident the Lions will grow.
"I don't want to take anything at all away from New Town, they played great. They broke pressure, made the extra pass, made shots, they outrebounded us and were just tougher than us," he said. "I'm quite disappointed in our lack of composure and our lack of togetherness and sticking to the script. With that being said, I'm the head coach of the program and I take full responsibility. We just didn't compete at a level that Dulaney basketball typically competes at."
Both teams return to the court Thursday, with New Town hosting Sparrows Point and Dulaney traveling to Loch Raven.
NT – Mills 31, Smith 13, Robinson 8, Guerrero 6, Sekreteri 8, Collins 4, Johnson 6, Carter 2. Totals: 31 9-15 78
D – Conway 21, Evans 9, Byers 5, Cornish 9, Amoruso 7, McGee 3. Totals: 16 14-22 54
Half: NT, 37-26
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