The Friendly Patriots had mounted comebacks before, but never against this caliber of opponent. After erasing an 18-point margin last week to fight their way into the Maryland State finals, Friendly, of Ft. Washington, Md., hoped to recreate that late-game magic against an even tougher opponent.

The Milford Mill Millers, of Baltimore County, on the other hand, were just looking for back-to-back title appearances as both schools clashed in the Maryland 3A semifinals on March 10 at the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center. Just as in their March 5 matchup against La Plata, another sluggish opening forced Friendly to try to come from behind. But this time the heroics were nowhere to be found, as they bowed out against Milford Mill, 58-37.

Milford Mill piled the points on early, taking a 15-4 first quarter lead before widening the gap to 24-6 in the middle of the second quarter. Friendly responded with their own run to pull within 29-15 at halftime, but the damage was already done. Facing a suffocating defense and struggling with their own out-of-sync offense, Friendly shot just 18 percent in the first half as the Milford Mill padded a comfortable lead.

“Friendly seemed a little bit rattled and rushed at times,” Milford coach Albert Holley said. “I thought that they seemed uncomfortable tonight.”

“The main thing that we wanted to get across to all of our teammates was that defense would win games,” said Milford senior guard Isaiah McCray. “Coach Holley expressed to us all week that defense would win this game and we went out there and executed defensive plays and that’s how we came up with the win.”

Milford and its defense continued to pour it on in the second half, closing the third quarter ahead 44-24. By the time Holley inserted his reserves with 2:37 left in the fourth quarter, Milford had claimed their biggest lead of the game at 54-31 while Friendly (23-4) was just looking to save face.

Friendly’s normally reliable big three senior guards Sherrod Baltimore, Michael Johnson and Davon Morton combined to shoot 9-of-30 from the field as the team connected on only 25 percent of their attempts.

“We kept fighting, they kept fighting,” said Baltimore. “They’re a really good team. We gave it all we had they had a good game plan they won today.”

Friendly was dominated in all aspects of the game. Milford outrebounded Friendly 40-25 and its bench outscored the Friendly squad 23-7.

The 2010 Maryland 3A State champions showed why they held last year’s crown and will look to defend their title this season on March 12.

“You have to take your hats off to Milford Mill,” Friendly coach Rob Garner said. “They’re everything that they said they were: a really good team.”