COLLEGE PARK, MD – Baltimore City and Baltimore County dominated the 2018 Maryland Public School Athletic Association Championships, sweeping all four state classifications on Saturday at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center.
Dunbar, Lake Clifton, Perry Hall and Poly all left with hardware, with the latter pair notching thrilling repeat title victories.
Here’s a look at the day’s action:
4A – HARDNETT LEADS COMEBACK AS PERRY HALL REPEATS
With his team struggling to keep pace against a surging Bladensburg squad, Perry Hall 2018 forward LaQuill Hardnett did what star players are supposed to do in big games – he took over.
The Cincinnati commit poured in 19 of his game-high 31 points in the second half – scoring 13 straight in one dominating stretch – to rally the Gators from 10 points down to win their second consecutive state championship.
“LaQuill turned into the dog that we knew he can be and is often.” PHHS coach George Pantageotou said. “He carried us to the victory.”
Hardnett finished 13-of-19 from the field while also grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds . No other Perry Hall player scored in double figures, with 2018 guard Tyler Holley’s 8 points were good for second in scoring.
It took every bit of that effort for the Gators to escape the Mustangs, who took their play to another level in the postseason and were making their first state title game appearance since 1979. They last won it all in 1973.
Behind 2018 star forward Daniel Oladapo and big shot after big shot from 2018 guard Josh Williamson, Bladensburg jumped in front early and controlled the pace, eventually building a 10-point lead with 3:16 remaining in the third quarter.
“[I was thinking] I’ve got to bring my team with me; I’ve got to go get it,” Hardnett said. “If I don’t go get it, who’s going to go get it? So I just had to pull them with me and I knew they were going to follow as soon as I sparked it off. That’s how it’s been for three years now.”
Hardnett scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, and gave Perry Hall the lead at 42-41 on a 3-pointer with 5:37 to play. The Gators held on with clutch free throw shooting and rebounding in the final minute.
“He’ll tell you he wasn’t tired,” Panageotou said of Hardnett, “but he was fried out there. He was exhausted, and to be able to perform being tired like that, he says it all the time, ‘I got you, Coach. I got you, Coach.’ It didn’t look good for us for a long time in this game and he’s like, ‘I am not letting my team lose.’ He sparked it and everyone fed off of it.”
Bladensburg coach Antonio Williams said he used DC champion Wilson – who his team faced earlier this year – as a template to prepare for Perry Hall’s size and athleticism. He has happy with his game plan, and said Hardnett was the biggest factor in the second half.
“#1 [Hardnett] started driving,” he said. “Our game plan was to go underneath the screens and he was going to put his head down and stay in the lane, so stand your ground and wall up. He was able to get some bounces and the ball went in. The best team won, man. We had a great game plan. I wish we had more than 24 hours to plan for 6-9, 6-8 , 6-8, 6-7, 6-4, but we were able to do an excellent job getting that done.”
Oladapo led the Mustangs with 18 points and 14 rebounds, while Williamson added 16, including four big 3-pointers.
2A – LAKE CLIFTON RALLIES PAST NORTH CAROLINE
Lake Clifton fell short in its two most recent title game appearances in 2015 and 2016, and for much of Saturday’s game against upstart North Caroline, it looked like the Lakers were in for another disappointment.
North Caroline led by as many as 11 points in the first half en route to a 35-29 halftime lead, but Lake Clifton slowly clawed back, taking the lead on a 3-pointer by 2018 guard Benjamin Carter with 2:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I was very pleased with how they dealt with adversity, ’cause it was looking real bad,” Lake coach Herman “Tree” Harried said. “We went down, I think 10, calls were going against us – nothing was going right – and I told them, ‘Fellas, can y’all just keep y’all’s heads right now? Because if you lose it, I can’t coach you no more.’ They sensed that, and they kept their heads and kept their composure, and we did it.”
Carter and 2018 guard Steven Parker had 15 points apiece for the Lakers, while 2018 forward Ronald Lucas had 14 points, 13 rebounds and 3 blocks.
The loss ended a stellar postseason run for North Caroline, which knocked off the top two seeds in its regional section to reach its first state semifinals since 1989. Saturday’s title game appearance the school’s first since winning it all in 1987.
2018 guard Joey Adams led all scorers with 26 points – following up his 31-point semifinal performance on Friday – while 2018 guard David Bailey, a Boston College running back commit, had 17.
“Nobody thought we could make it this far,” Adams said. “I’m glad that we got here, that we could play here. We knew we could get to this point.”
3A – POLY HOLDS ON IN FINAL SECONDS TO REPEAT
With 16.2 seconds remaining and his team clinging to a 49-47 lead against Milford Mill, Poly coach Sam Brand asked his team a simple question during the timeout huddle.
“I asked them, “What wins basketball games?’” he recalled. “A couple of guys yelled out ‘defense’ and a couple of guys yelled out ‘rebounding’ and I said, ‘Well, we need both.’
His Engineers delivered, harassing the Millers so thoroughly that they couldn’t get a final shot off and saw their title hopes bounce away off an errant pass as time expired.
“Yeah. It was a long game,” Poly guard Demetrius Mims said with a smile when asked if it seemed as though the final buzzer would never sound. “Jordan [Goodwin], he hit a lot of shots that I didn’t think were going to go in at the end of the game and he kept them in the game. He made it tough to get out of there with a win, but we did it.”
Millers coach Ryan Smith said the final play – called “Georgia” was intended to feed the hot hand.
“We were trying to get the ball to Jordan on the other side,” he said, “but the play broke down and we got a little excited at the end. We still had a chance to get a lay-up but had a bad pass. I explained to the boys in the locker room that that’s basketball. If you play it long enough, you win close games and you lose close games.”
2020 forward Justin Lewis led Poly with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while the Long Beach State-bound Mims had 17 points.
Goodwin, a 2018 guard, led the Millers with 15 points, including three huge 3-pointers. 2018 wings Ugo Obasi – a Virginia football commit – and Eric Turner had 13 and 10, respectively
“When these guys lock in on defense, we’ve been a team that has made it really hard for opposing teams to score,” Brand said. “And they made it very hard on that last possession to get a quality shot, so I was proud.”
1A – DUNBAR DEFENSE KEYS 16TH TITLE WIN
Dunbar trailed 15-10 after one quarter in Saturday’s opener, but used their defense to completely flip the script, holding Fairmont Heights to just 11 points combined through the next two quarters en route to another title victory.
It is the legendary program’s 16th state championship, extending their state record -Allegany is second with 14- and first since winning four in a row from 2010-2013.
“We always try to play multiple-style defenses to take away what the opposing team likes to do,” Dunbar coach Cyrus Jones, Sr. said, “and we just try to switch things up to make them feel uncomfortable and get them to do things that they’re not used to doing, and that was our focus. We knew they always wanted to attack the basket, and pressure you on defense and try to score as much as they can in transition and we just wanted to make them score and beat us in a half-court set.”
Dunbar 2018 guard Da’Shawn Phillip led all scorers with 27 points, while 2020 forward Jamal West had 15 points and 14 rebounds – his second straight double-double – and 2019 guard Malik McCormick finished with 10 points.
“The first quarter – it’s our first time in the state championship so we had a little jitters – even me,” Phillip said. “But you know, we just took our time and put pressure on the ball and they couldn’t handle it.”
After scoring 15 points in the first quarter, Fairmont didn’t hit 30 until there was 5:32 remaining in the fourth quarter. They scored just 5 points in the second quarter and 6 in the third, struggling to finish at the rim or knock down jumpers.
“I felt like we got some of the shots we wanted,” Hornets coach Chuck Henry said. “I felt like at time we were a little rushed and not as poised as we generally are. A lot of that is a tribute to what Dunbar did – they played really aggressively, and ultimately they controlled the defensive boards. We couldn’t get a lot of offensive rebounds today, so I’d attribute that to a lot of it.”
2018 guard Darren Lucas-White scored 19 points to lead the Hornets, while 2018 forward Yearlando Reed II finished with 11 points and 9 rebounds.
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