By CHARLES ABANKWA
COLLEGE PARK, MD - The Meade Mustangs jumped out to a 9-0 lead against the Walt Whitman Vikings and never looked back, routing the Vikings 61-35 to earn their second consecutive berth in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Class 4A title game.
Meade used its defense from the opening tip to fluster Whitman and star player Shaq Diboti-Lobe. The Vikings were held to only four points in the quarter, including only one field goal, and the Mustangs led 15-4.
As the second quarter got underway, Whitman began to show some life on the offensive end, getting to the basket and the free throw line. That life went out of half the Xfinity Center when Diboti-Lobe was ejected from the game after making contact with Meade’s William Huff after the two became tangled with each other at half court.
A brief tussle between both teams occurred at half court including a Meade bench player coming off the bench and onto the court. Diboti-Lobe was assessed a technical foul then ejected for his role in the scuffle. As he walked towards the locker room escorted by Xfinity Center security and a coach, with his jersey covering his face and visibly holding back tears, the game seemed all but decided. The Vikings went into the half down 28-15, and without their leading scorer.
In the second half the Mustangs were just too much for the Vikings to handle. Meade began the half with back to back 3-pointers that gave the team a 19-point lead. The Mustangs held the Vikings to another quarter in the single digits, as the Vikings managed only seven points during the quarter and trailed 43-22.
In the fourth quarter the Mustangs cleared the bench and the bench kept the pace going outscoring the Vikings in the final quarter 18 to 13 paving the way for 12 of its 13 players to score at least two points in the game. Senior guard Tristan Easton led the way with 13 points, and Jerrel Elder had 11.
While the Mustangs defense was stellar the Vikings also struggled to make open shots, going 2 for 22 from the three point line, while the Mustangs took a total of 13. On the game the Vikings attempted more free throws and 3 pointers than the Mustangs but were still outscored by three points from the free throw line and nine points from long range. George Wilson led Whitman with 9 points.
ELEANOR ROOSEVELT DOWNS PERRY HALL
Eleanor Roosevelt Raiders advance to its second 4A State title game in the last four years as the team was able to hold on late and defeat the Perry Hall Gators 69-59.
The Raiders and Gators took each other’s best punch in the first half. Roosevelt jumped out to an early first quarter lead before Perry Hall was able to respond, using the three ball and getting to the free throw line the Gators took back the lead before going into the half knotted at 32-32.
Coming out of the half the Raiders took control of game. Led by senior Naji Marshall the Raiders limited the Gators to nearly one shot on all offensive possessions leading to a number of transition opportunities.
During a two minute stretch midway through the third quarter the Raiders had a put back dunk by Victor Okafor, a put back layup off a Marshall miss and coast to coast bucket by Jaden Faulkner. The Gators battled back late in the third quarter after a quick 5-0 run saw the Raiders lead fall to just 10 points,but Marshall made a corner 3-pointer as the third quarter clock ran down, giving the team a 53-40 lead.
In the fourth quarter Perry Hall’s Reece Wiseman came out firing from beyond the arc. Wiseman hit his first shot from beyond the 3-point line to bring the game back within 10 points. Then Roosevelt went to its stall offense with about six minutes left in the game. The tactic seemed to be working as Roosevelt’s offensive possessions were time-consuming and Perry Hall began to force the issue on offense.
After Wiseman’s second 3-pointer of the quarter brought the game within single digits, the free throw line began to plague the Raiders. Faulkner missed four straight free throws before a James Rider 3-pointer cut the Raiders lead to 62-57 with a few minutes left to play.
The Raiders as a team missed six straight free throws during that span in the fourth quarter, making way for the Gators to stage one last comeback. However, two clutch free throws by Marshall and a turnover by the Gators with 42 seconds left put the game far enough out of reach.