After his team won its third straight Baltimore County championship a few weeks ago, Milford Mill boys’ basketball coach Albert Holley admitted his team’s success has coincided with neighborhood rivals Woodlawn and Randallstown undergoing coaching transitions.The Millers have been able to separate themselves from the rest of Baltimore County into a place among area’s elite.
Saturday, they etched a place in state history.
No. 3 Milford Mill won its second straight Class 3A championship, defeating Centennial, 56-44, at the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center. Senior Tevin Hanner posted game-highs of 19 points and 17 rebounds for Milford Mill (25-2 overall).
The Millers led by as many as 19 points en route to their 16th consecutive decision. Twenty-three years after becoming the first Baltimore County team to win a state title in three decades, Milford Mill became the first team in a quarter-century to claim back-to-back 3A state championships. Thomas Johnson from Frederick went back-to-back in 1987 and 1988.
“Last year we sort of were underdogs and weren’t really expected to be here; the expectations changed this year,” said Holley. “It was a lot of pressure, but they lived up to it. It teaches them a valuable life lesson, you want to live under high expectations and you want to achieve under them.”
After playing one of its better games of the season in Thursday’s semifinal whitewashing of Prince George’s County’s Friendly, Milford Mill sputtered in spots Saturday against a pesky Centennial (20-7) squad. In the end, the Millers’ experience and talent push them over championship threshold.
Hanner, a wiry 6-foot-5 post, who plays the paint like Spiderman with his long arms and active feet, casted a web over Centennial’s hopes. He scored nine of his 13 first quarter points including an offensive board and score, a nifty hook shot, a steal which he took in for a slam and runner before the clock expired.
“I want to bring a lot of energy,” said Hanner, who had five rebounds and two blocked shots in the opening eight minutes. “Usually I get my teammates involved but I want to force the issue so the process would be easier for my teammates to score later on.”
The Millers led 17-4 in the second quarter after a follow by Ryan Jackson, but Centennial climbed to within at 21-16 at halftime. Milford Mill opened the second half with a three-pointer by Isaiah McCray, a basket by senior Duane Miller and a Hanner free throw, for an 11-point advantage.
The Eagles got no closer than eight points the rest of the way. Holley, whose team won controlled the boards, 48-32, said his squad needed to reassert itself after the quick start.
“We came out playing great defense as we like to do and then we sort of felt like we were getting ready to blow them out and then fell into some bad habits of reaching and gambling instead of just playing good fundamental sound defense.”
Milford Mill held Centennial to less than 26-percent shooting including 3 of 20 from three-point range. Hanner said Millers didn’t want Centennial to get into an offensive rhythm.
“We want to make sure to get off their jump shots and make them put it on the floor,” said Hanner. “That’s their strength.”
Hanner’s three-point play upped the lead to 19 at 52-33 with under three minutes left in regulation. In two games, Hanner, who holds a scholarship offer from Loyola University, had 31 points and 29 rebounds.
Matt Harbinson led Centennial with 11 points and nine rebounds, and Keyonte Potts scored 11. After winning its first-ever state Final Four contest in the waning seconds against South Hagerstown in Thursday’s semifinal round, Centennial showed tenacity Saturday after teetering on being annihilated. The Ellicott City school gave No. 5 and Howard County league champs Oakland Mills its toughest matches in its unbeaten regular season.
I feel like we did show that we can play with teams that are higher caliber,” said Harbinson. “We can hold our heads high just because we were able to play with them and showed who we are and what we can do.”
“We are disappointed that we didn’t finish today the way we wanted to, but the season as a whole has been a tremendous success,” said Centennial coach Chad Hollwedel. “To leave out of 45 teams and finish second in a tournament is a heck of a job and this whole experience through the past couple weeks has been a tremendous amount of fun.”
In the end, Milford Mill has the last laugh in Class 3A and a place in history.
“Just seeing all the pieces come together, it’s just a great moment,” said McCray, who went 72-9 as a three-year varsity starter. “I said to myself we’re going to build a legacy from county championships to region championships to state championships. It’s just been a blessing from God.”