Atkinson’s heroics give Patriots championship
Layup with 4.3 seconds remaining secures victory in Anne Arundel final
When Deja Atkinson woke up on Saturday morning, she knew she had a big basketball game to play. Little did she know she would be the hero for the No. 9 Old Mill girls team.
Atkinson hit a running layup with 4.3 seconds left, got fouled and completed the ed three-point play to give the Patriots a 59-57 win over South River in the Anne Arundel County girls basketball championship game over No. 4 South River on Saturday night a North County High School.
“The play wasn’t even designed for me. I got the ball and knew I had to go to the basket,” Atkinson said. “They were either going to foul me or I was going to make the basket. I knew that I also had to make that free throw, so I went up there with a strong, positive mentality.”
The winning sequence was the culmination of Old Mill rallying from a 56-52 deficit with 39.7 seconds left. Mikiyah Mallett, who had a team-high 15 points, including 13 in the second half, cut the lead in half with a field goal with 31.6 seconds left, but missed the ensuing free throw. However, the junior followed her shot, got the rebound and laid it back in to knot the score at 56.
After the Seahawks’ Kathleen Sullivan made the second of two free throws to give South River a 57-56 advantage with 22.4 seconds remaining, Old Mill turned the ball over and was forced to foul. But both free throws were missed, leading to Atkinson’s game-winning points.
“That was the toughest of all of them,” said Old Mill coach Rick Smith, who has now defeated the Seahawks in four of the last six county finals. “That is the kind of games we’re going to have with them. We match up pretty much the same way, it’s a good physical game and it’s a good rivalry we’ve had with them now for the last few years.
Earlier this year during the regular season, South River defeated Old Mill, 56-55, on Jan. 23.
The affair wasn’t a nail-biter early as the Patriots went into the break with the largest lead at 31-23. Atkinson and Destiny Galloway paced the Old Mill offense with nine points apiece, while Julia Fitzwater and Sullivan led the South River charge with eight and seven points, respectively.
South River went on a 9-2 run to open the second half to cut the Patriots’ lead to 33-32 just under halfway through the third quarter. The teams went back and forth over the next four minutes as Old Mill clung to a 42-40 lead after three quarters.
Sullivan made the first eight points in the fourth quarter for the Seahawks, who were on an 8-4 run to give them a 48-46 lead with just under five minutes to play.