By MARCUS HELTON
COLLEGE PARK, MD - The 2017 Maryland state semifinals opened Thursday with a quarter of games at the University of Maryland’s XFinity Center.
Perry Hall and Quince Orchard were victorious in 4A action, while Poly and Potomac won in the early Class 3A semifinals to set up the first two of this Saturday’s state championship contests. The Class 1A and 2A finalists will be determined Friday.
The day’s best game came in the nightcap, as Quince Orchard stunned previously unbeaten Wise 55-52.
Here’s a look at Thursday’s action:
4A: QUINCE ORCHARD 55, WISE 52
2017 wing John Fierstein had 17 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists to lead Quince Orchard, which orchestrated its gameplan to perfection against the larger, faster Pumas.
“We just wanted to be methodical with the ball,” 2017 guard Matt Kelly said, “hold the ball for as long as we could and make them play defense, which they haven’t really done all year. If they had to play a lot of defense, their offense would slack and we could make it a low-scoring game.”
The Cougars fell into a quick 10-4 hole but rallied with a red-hot shooting display, finishing 14-of-19 from the field to take a 30-19 lead at halftime.
“The odd thing was the game plan at the beginning was ‘Go ahead and play and see what happens,’” QO coach Paul Foringer said. “And so we played and it wasn’t working out - we were behind. And then we held the ball and then we came back - holding the ball, we came back.”
Wise made its move in the third quarter, and regained the lead on a Darron Barnes coast-to-coast drive with 7:10 to go. The Pumas held the lead until the final minute, when 2017 forward Colin Crews hit a wide-open corner 3 to put QO up 48-46.
“[I was thinking] That’s a big shot,” Fierstein said with a laugh. “I saw him line up behind the college 3, and in my mind I was saying, ‘Hey Colin, that’s kind of deep.’ But you know what, he hit a big shot in a big-time situation and that’s all you can ask.”
Wise cut the deficit to one point twice in the final 30 seconds - on a Yamon Robinson 3-pointer with 20.4 seconds to go and a pair of Barnes free throws with seven seconds to go - but couldn’t get any closer. QO’s Jake Feidelman hit a pair of clutch free throws with 6.2 seconds to go to put the Cougars up by three, and Mike Speight’s desperation last-second 3-point attempt missed wide to end the game.
For the Pumas, Thursday’s loss served as an especially tough ending to a memorable season. Wise opened the season with 21 consecutive wins and was considered the state title favorite for most of the year.
“We didn’t do a good job of defending at all,” Barnes said. “It was just terrible. Defensively we weren’t rotating, we were giving them open shots, and we just didn’t bring the energy. It wasn’t a good look in the first half at all.”
Barnes finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds for Wise, and put the Pumas on his back down the stretch to help them rally. Speight finished with 14.
“At the end of the day, we had an opportunity to play and do certain things on the floor, and this is how life is sometimes,” Wise coach Rob Garner said. “But, I refuse to allow the loss today to take away from such a great season that these kids had. We did some things this year that were awesome, and it’s going to sting a little bit, but we’re going to get these guys back together very soon and we’re going to have an opportunity to celebrate this season.”
4A: PERRY HALL 74, ANNAPOLIS 63
Perry Hall took advantage of its pronounced size advantage to pull away in the fourth quarter and hold off Annapolis’ upset bid.
Tyler Holley scored 20 points off the bench to lead Perry Hall, which got 19 points and 13 rebounds from 6-8 2018 forward Anthony Higgs and 11 points and 20 boards from 6-9 2018 forward LaQuill Hardnett.
Christian Jones had 17 to lead Annapolis, while Brennan Ralph had 16 and Trey Gross 12 points and 11 rebounds.
3A: POTOMAC 66, SENECA VALLEY 59
Potomac outscored Seneca Valley 21-16 in the fourth quarter and came up with several key buckets down the stretch to hold off the Eagles and return to the state title game for the first time since winning the 2A crown in 2014.
2017 wing Travis Henson had 22 points to lead the Wolverines, going 9-of-13 from the field and 3-for-4 from 3-point range. 2017 guard Ryle Burley added 12 points.
"I just had a mindset that if I got the ball, I could beat my man," Henson said.
2017 wing Brandon Simpson finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead Seneca Valley.
3A: BALTIMORE POLY 74, STEPHEN DECATUR 44
Poly used a quick start to jump on Decatur and never looked back en route to a 74-44 victory in Thursday’s opener.
Temple-bound 2017 guard De’Vondre Perry (pictured) dominated for Poly, finishing with 33 points and 9 rebounds while shooting 13-of-19 from the field and 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Cleveland Horton finished with 9 points while Demetrius Mims and Seth Jones each added 8.
Poly’s meeting with Potomac on Saturday will mark their first-ever state title game appearance.
The Engineers (21-7) led 17-6 after one quarter and 36-15 at the half. They forced the Seahawks into 21 turnovers and held them to 30 percent shooting from the field.
Wofford-bound 2017 forward Keve Aluma led Decatur with 19 points and 11 rebounds. 2018 guard Kevon Voyles had 8 pointsand 6 rebounds for DeCatur (25-2).
Pictures by Ron Bailey, I95Ballerz.com