DANVILLE — As the points mounted against Milford's girls' basketball team Tuesday, it just meant one thing: The Bearcats had a larger deficit to overcome in order to win.
Behind 18-8 in the first quarter of a Vermilion County tournament semifinal game against second-seeded Armstrong-Potomac, Milford never led until the final 10 minutes at Palmer Arena.
Its first three leads each lasted less than 90 seconds. Its fourth lead will stand forever.
Ashlen Portwood scored the last of her game-high 22 points with 15 seconds remaining as the third-seeded Bearcats stunned A-P — a team it had lost to previously — 48-46.
Portwood's basket put Milford ahead 47-46.
Samantha Wilken, who had the game's only double-double, provided the final margin, hitting the first of two free throws with :02 remaining.
"Sam is our unsung hero," Milford coach Rod Burgett said. "She came up big."
In the opening quarter, A-P came up huge. Inside players Erika Sieberns and Sarah Reardon combined to make 6-of-6 first-quarter shots — accounting for the team's first 12 points — as A-P opened its 10-point lead.
"They did a good job getting it in the post, and we don't match up well," Burgett said. "We have to do it with heart and guts."
The school's career scoring leader hit nine second-quarter points as the Bearcats closed within 28-23 at intermission.
"Ashlen is someone we lean on, but luckily we're getting scoring from other areas, too," Burgett said.
Dina Woodworth knocked down two three-pointers in the fourth quarter, the final one with less than a minute left. She finished with 10 points.
Milford will be the underdog in its first title-game appearance, but it won't mind.
"We'll try to keep believing," Burgett said. "We have nothing to lose."
A-P's Brooke Markwalder reached the 1,000-point mark on a 12-foot jumper three minutes before halftime. Her three-pointer with 2:14 left gave the Trojans a 46-42 lead, but it would be A-P's final points.
Woodworth's trey cut the deficit to 46-45, setting the stage for Portwood's heroics.
Wilken totaled 11 points and 12 rebounds. Area assists leader Kylie Scherf had seven.
Sieberns led the Trojans with 16 points. Reardon had 10 rebounds to go with her nine points. Morgan Zindars also scored nine points.
Bismarck-Henning 49, Salt Fork 19. The Blue Devils' girls' basketball team is back in the championship game for the fifth year in a row.
B-H now will try to win its fifth straight title. It is in that position thanks to a staunch defensive effort in a 30-point semifinal win against Salt Fork.
The Storm finished with more turnovers (26) than field goal attempts (25) and was held to five points during the opening 22:44.
The performance followed what coach Mike Stephens considered a subpar effort by his team in the opening round.
"Our kids needed to focus better, which is unusual for this group," Stephens said. "I didn't say anything about it in practice yesterday. I have five seniors. They took care of it."
The Blue Devils' defensive catalysts were three of those seniors: guards Kari Free, Jill Haas and Samantha Siddens. They helped hold Salt Fork to one basket until the 1:38 mark of the second quarter.
"Out front is where the pressure starts," Stephens said.
Haas scored a game-high 16 points. Bailey Bryant added 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting.
Alyxis Roy made all three of her shots and led the Storm with six points. Shannon Puzey added four rebounds.
B-H carries a 16-5 record into the title game.
"We came here with the idea of wanting to win the tournament," Stephens said. "These girls have all been through it before, but we know we'll get a test Friday."
In boys' action:
Westville 45, Milford 17. The Tigers' defense made the difference as they expanded a 14-11 second-quarter lead to a final 28-point margin. Westville held the Bearcats to two baskets after halftime and six points the final 21:50.
"We've only had one half all year, as far as I'm concerned, where we didn't play hard," Westville coach Jeff Millis said. "We haven't always played smart. Tonight, we were patient and executed. We're a team that can't afford to take up quick shots."
Kyle Brazas led the Tigers with 12 points. Jeffrey Thompson had 11 points and was 2 of 2 from three-point range. Layne White had a team-high six rebounds.
Westville made 17 of 33 field goal attempts. Josh Killion and Alec Portwood each scored four points for Milford. Wyatt Alt had six rebounds.