The 2023 Maryland 4A State Champion Parkville Knights. [MARCUS HELTON]
COLLEGE PARK, MD - Trailing by three points at halftime of the Maryland 4A State Championship Game against a Meade team that seemed to have all the momentum, the Parkville Knights didn’t panic.
Instead, the Knights drew from the experience - and pain - of recent postseasons, including last year’s heartbreaking state semifinal loss to eventual champion Eleanor Roosevelt.
“We brought back some returners who knew what it felt like to lose,” Parkville coach Josh Czerski said. “And having that feeling everyday in practice and in the offseason, and just talking about it and staying glued in - we kept communication year-round, whether it was just checking in on how each other were doing, but just being family and being able to get through that, I think was the biggest thing. We were in the locker room at halftime and switched some things up, and came out and played our game.”
Those adjustments - and PHS 2024 guard Josiah Legree - helped turn the tide.
Legree scored 12 of his 223 points in the third quarter, including 10 straight for the Knights as they rallied and pulled away in the second half to down Meade 72-56 and claim the Maryland 4A crown.
“[I had] To get out of my own head and step up for my team and be a leader,” Legree said. “And trust my coach and my teammates to find me and let me continue to get my rhythm throughout the game. But also, trust in my teammates to score themselves.”
2023 guard Caron Smith had 23 points to lead the Knights, while 2024 guard Sincere Barfield scored 14 off the bench. Favor Okigweh and Tre Worsley had 13 rebounds apiece.
Meade 2023 forward Shawn Jones turned in a tremendous 25-point, 11-rebound, 6-block performance in his final high school game. 2023 guard Xavion Roberson added 10 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Parkville jumped out first in Saturday’s finale, building a 21-13 lead after one quarter. Meade seized the momentum in the second quarter, though, using a 13-0 scoring run to take a 26-23 lead. Overall they outscored Parkville 16-5 in the quarter, and held a three-point advantage (29-26) at the break.
Czerski said he talked to his players about getting better looks on offense, but added that a key defensive shift was a more important factor.
“We switched over to a 1-2-2 three-quarter court [press] and fell back into a 3-2 [zone],” he said. “That was only the second time this year we’d played any sort of zone, and the first time this year we ever played any three-quarter. So it was something new for us, but these kids have been able to be flexible and just able to adjust throughout the game and throughout the season.”
The shift slowed Meade’s offensive flow, and Legree gave the Mustangs fits on the other end.
“It feels great,” Legree said of his offensive rhythm. “My teammates keep finding me, and I just keep scoring, and then it opens up for the rest of the offense, like Caron scoring and then Sincere getting his, too.”
With 2:45 remaining in the quarter, Legree was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and made all three shots to put the Knights up, 41-39. They never relinquished the lead.
“We stopped attacking the basket in the second half,” Meade coach Michael Glick said. “The zone they put on us was very effective.”
With the win, Parkville completed a Baltimore City and Baltimore County sweep of the Maryland state titles, as they joined Edmondson-Westside (1A), New Town (2A) and City (3A).
“It’s no surprise,: Czerski said. “You look at those programs and they’re great programs. New Town, we split with them this year. City in some of these offseason leagues Coach O does a great job with them and they’re senior-led. And then Edmondson and Lake, that speaks for itself, I feel like it's their game almost every single year. So it's great for the area; we all support each other.”