By MARCUS HELTON
COLLEGE PARK, MD - The 2016-17 high school season officially came to a close Saturday with the crowning of four Maryland state champions: Perry Hall (4A), Baltimore Poly (3A), Patterson (2A) and Fairmont Heights (1A).
RELATED: 3A + 4A SEMIFINAL RECAPS
RELATED: 1A + 2A SEMIFINAL RECAPS
4A: PERRY HALL END BALTIMORE COUNTY TITLE DROUGHT
Continuing the theme of this year’s tournament, the final game of the day proved to be the best, with Perry Hall and Quince Orchard exchanging heavyweight blows for four quarters and an overtime before the Gators gutted out a 59-56 victory.
The victory gave Perry Hall Baltimore County’s first title in the state’s largest classification since Towson in 1963.
“As a group we always knew we could accomplish it,” Perry Hall 2018 guard James Rider said, “but I guess as a county and in the state we were always kind of looked over and the underdog, but I guess we’ve finally made our own name and were able to carry our own weight.”
Rider scored a team-high 18 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting night from the field, while juniors LaQuill Hardnett and Tyler Holley had 14 points apiece and Hardnett added 13 rebounds.
Perry Hall led 24-17 at halftime and 40-37 after three quarters. The teams battled through a frenetic fourth quarter that saw QO’s Matt Kelly make two free throws to put the Cougars up 48-46 with 28 seconds remaining.
After a timeout and a pair of deflections out of bounds, Hardnett hit a runner to tie the game at 48-48 in the final seconds. Kelly lost the ball after the ensuing inbounds and Higgs launched an off-balance shot at the buzzer that bounced off the back of the rim to end regulation.
The Gators took a quick lead in overtime and held it, but the Cougars kept making runs at them, knocking down several big shots to keep it a one-possession game.
“We think we’re good, right?” Perry Hall coach George Panageotou said. “ We’re pumping up the crowd and Anthony had a dunk and you think you’re good and then ‘Bang, bang,’ It’s like like, ‘We can’t shake these guys!’”
“They just wouldn’t. let us. leave.” Rider joked.
Hardnett made four crucial free throws in the overtime to give Perry Hall a 59-56 lead with 8.4 seconds to go, and on the ensuing QO possession Holley same up with a big steal to seal the victory.
“I just cleared my head and didn’t think about nothing but a win and just knocked them down,” Hardnett said. “That’s all that was going through my head.”
Kelly finished with 22 points for Quince Orchard, which made a nice run that included knocking off title favorite Wise in the semifinals.
“I stayed up til 3 going over and over [film] watching them play,” Panageotou said. “They are amazing, and they were amazing again tonight. I was sort of hoping they couldn’t have two games like that - like maybe they could let up just a little after the “huge upset” - and they surely didn’t. They gave us everything they had and somehow we won; I don’t even know how we won. We won in overtime by three, that’s all I know.”
3A: POLY WINS FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP IN A THRILLER
It took nearly all 32 minutes - 31:57 to be precise - but Poly earned its first-ever state championship with a thrilling 64-63 victory over Potomac.
Every time it looked as though Poly (22-7) seemed ready to sew the game up in the second half, Potomac (18-7) would mount a run, and none was gutsier than the one that came in the final minute.
The Engineers led 20-13 after one quarter, 33-20 at the half and 43-36 at the end of the third.
After Demetrius Mims made a pair of free throws to put Poly up 52-42 with 4:59 to go, Potomac went on a run, eventually tying the game up at 55-55 on a Malik Moore bucket with 2:15 remaining.
Freshman guard Rahim Moore made some big plays for Poly - scoring five straight points - and after Poly eventually held a six-point lead (61-55) with just 24.3 seconds to play.
Potomac wasn’t done, though, as Gary Robertson drained a 3-pointer and Ryle Burley made a lay-up to trim the Poly lead to 63-60 with only 12 seconds remaining.
Poly star Dre Perry was fouled and made one of two free throws with 10 seconds to extend the Poly lead to 64-60 with 10 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession Robertson drained another 3, but there were fewer than five seconds remaining and Poly didn’t inbound the ball as time expired.
Perry said he remembered a similar situation occurring in a regular-season loss to Simeon (Il.) where Poly hit a late shot but Simeon elected not to inbound and the clock ran out.
“You’ve got five seconds to take the ball out, so the time will keep running,” Perry said. “The moral of the story is we went through a lot this season and had pretty much been there before, so I knew what to do in that situation so i just held the ball. I wasn’t too worried about it; I knew the game was over.”
Perry finished with 23 points and 16 rebounds to cap a monster playoff run - he had 33 points in a blowout semifinal win over Stephen Decatur - while Torrin Stephens had 16 and Mims 14.
"I feel like we stayed with each other through the ups and downs," Poly coach Sam Brand said. "To have a game that goes up and down - where you have the lead and then they come back to tie and it looks like our energy is down - to pull together and make a couple plays down the stretch is storybook special."
Burley had 16 for Potomac, while Robertson and Travis Henson had 14 apiece.
“Coach always told us, ‘Play til the clock says triple zero,’” Robertson said. “That’s all I thought about when I had the ball - the game’s not over til it’s over. One point away - it hurts.”
2A: DEJA VU FOR PATTERSON’S MARTIN IN 2ND STATE TITLE WIN
Patterson coach Harry Martin’s 101st career coaching victory came in the Clippers’ 2012 state title win against Thomas Stone. So, it was only fitting that career victory #201 also came with a state championship trophy.
“When took over 11 years ago, it was, ‘Hey, you guys only win two or three games a year,’” Martin said. “In 1 years we’ve won five regional titles, two state titles and two City titles. … We’ve been blessed and fortunate to have some of the best players in the state. But with all that together, it’s not easy. You come down here, and they don’t give away state championships. It’s not like you come to the door and say, ‘I’d like one of those,’ and they say, ‘OK, here it is.’ You have to battle and fight, and we fought tonight.”
Indeed, Saturday’s 49-43 win over Century didn’t come easy. The Clippers (26-3) took an 18-13 lead after the first quarter, but then both offenses bogged down, combining for just 12 points as Patterson took a 22-21 lead at the half.
“”We go from 18 [points] to four,” Martin said. “Next thing you know, the game gets shortened, and it gets tighter and tighter. And then it becomes a possession game, when really we wanted to create an up and down. But I think we created enough of it up and down with pressing. Zach Tucker’s a hell of a player - #3; so it was really about wearing him down. We thought [Friday] with them playing an up and down game against Central - and him controlling the ball maybe 90 percent of the time - that we would send double teams at him and chase him all up and down the court and tire him out, and I think we did that towards the end.”
Tucker - who finished with 34 points in Friday’s win over Central - finished with 16 on 3-of-18 shooting against Patterson. 2017 forward Chris Norman added 12 and 8 rebounds for the Knights (24-3).
2019 guard Gerard Mungo led the Clippers with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, and hit several key free throws to seal the win late. 2017 forward Christion Adams posted 13 points and 10 rebounds, while 2019 guard Marvin Price finished with 12 points.
Featuring a lineup that started three sophomores - Mungo, Price and Daesean Jones - Patterson looks primed to be a contender for a few more titles in the next few years.
1A: FAIRMONT HEIGHTS CLAIMS FIRST STATE TITLE SINCE 1981
With a 65-52 win over Edmondson-Westside, second-year coach Chuck Henry and his Hornets added the eighth state championship in program history and ended a title drought that began in 1981.
“We speak a lot about history,” Henry said. “We talk about the legacy of Fairmont Heights. 36 years is a long time to wait in between - we feel like we’re the Cubs or the Cavs or something. It’s funny, 2017 seems to be that year of the underdog. A lot of people wrote us off, walking into the playoffs with eight losses and things like that. It’s a big lift for us because now we can go back to school and show these kids that no matter who we are, no matter what we do and no matter where we’re from, you can accomplish great things if you put your mind to it.”
It didn’t look promising for Fairmont (17-8) early, as Edmondson - which came in seeking its third state title in five years - raced out to a quick 10-1 lead. The Hornets didn’t panic, though, and rallied to cut the deficit to 12-11 after one quarter.
The Red Storm led 30-28 at the half, and the Hornets went ahead by one (44-43) after three quarters.
The Hornets slowly extended their lead, and answered every Edmondson (16-8) rally with a push of their own.
6-4 2018 forward Yearlando Reed led Fairmont with 17 points off the bench, going 7-of-8 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
“Not really, because in the warm ups I couldn’t make none,” Reed joked when asked if he knew he’d shoot so well. “But when I got in the game they always tell me to shoot, and I shot and I knocked it down I was like, ‘Oh yeah, there it is,’ and I just kept shooting.”
Fairmont’s Darren Lucas-White had 15 points and Kimani Benjamin 14.
“I thought our guys were really resilient today,” Henry said. “I was really proud of what they put out there, and ultimately I’m humbled by what we got accomplished today.”
2019 guard Teon Gardner had a game-high 18 points to lead Edmondson, while 2017 guard Frankye Duckett added 13.
PHOTOS BY RON BAILEY OF I95BALLERZ.COM