The stage was set for the 4A East region championship, the defending champion Meade Mustangs against the Annapolis Panthers. The two teams met last year at the same time and Meade pulled off a 62-59 win to advance to the state championship semifinals. Saturday, the tables had turned as Annapolis defeated Meade 59-55 to advance to the state semifinals.
During their only regular season meeting the Mustangs defeated the Panthers 74-59 by shooting 45 percent from beyond the 3-point line and 50 percent from the floor. Saturday the Mustangs were only able to shoot 38 percent from the floor and 31 percent from beyond the arc, both of which are below the season average for them.
A slow start by Meade was not the start it was looking for as the Mustangs were held scoreless until 3:46 mark of the first quarter. As the quarter progressed however, so did the scoring, and Meade was down 16-12 after the first quarter.
The second quarter provided Annapolis with a chance to add to its lead. Baskets made by Chris Jones, Daryl Turner and Trey Gross, along with second chance points, gave the Panthers a 28-23 lead at the half.
With Meade starting with ball at the start of third quarter, the team knew what it had to do in order to come back and gain the lead. After Will Dion drove into the lane and finished with a layup, Meade responded with two straight 3-pointers from Mhazi Thames bringing the deficit down to 32-29. Annapolis continued to make shots and outrebound the Mustangs on both ends of the court.
With less than a minute left Meade knocked down a 3-pointer from Jeremy Washington to bring the Meade within one point. After a travel violation on Annapolis, Meade received the ball back with 47.3 seconds to go in the third.
Malcolm Moses received the ball and shot from beyond the arc, and although the shot was off the mark, Washington was there to get to rebound and drew a foul going in for a layup.
Washington converted both of his free throws giving Meade a 41-40 and its first lead of the game. Two more free throws made by junior Anthony May gave Meade the 43-40 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Meade came into the fourth with a lead but only had it for less than two minutes as Nyonjae Spriggs was able to hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc giving the Panthers the 47-45 lead. After re-tying it at 47, the Mustangs regained the lead again thanks to an Esmond Williams pull-up jumper.
A Thames three pointer with 38 seconds left gave the Mustangs, who were looking to clinch their third straight region championship, a 52-47 lead.
Missed shots by the Panthers gave Meade the ball back with 3:50 left in the game, allowing the Mustangs to take a minute off the clock before calling a timeout. Syvan Sturdivant would be fouled after receiving the inbound pass. He converted 1-of-2 free throws to give the Mustangs a six point lead with 2:45 remaining.
Annapolis came charging back and went on a 6-0 run in a 34 second span thanks to Jones and Dion, who made four foul shots combined, and Jones, who hit a pull-up jumper to tie it at 53. A traveling violation by Meade helped set up Jones again, this time driving to the hoop and converting a 3-point play after being fouled.
On the ensuing possession Dion fouled out of the game sending Thames to the line, he converted both free throws and the Panthers still clinged to a 56-55 lead. After a Panther timeout, Jones went to the free throw line again but he wasn’t able to convert any points. After the second miss, Meade got the rebound and started driving down the court. Osagie Evbuomwan received the pass, but wasn’t able to convert the layup forcing Meade to foul.
Down by three with 40.2 remaining Meade looked to Moses whose had been hot from beyond the arc. Moses missed his first attempt to tie the game but the Mustangs were able to regain possession and call a timeout with 20.4 seconds remaining.
Moses got one more shot up but it didn’t go in as the Panthers got the revenge they wanted to avenge since last year.
Annapolis head coach Dan Smalley praised his team’s resiliency.
“This is probably one of the first times we came back from that much down that late this season,” he said. “I’m really proud of the guys.”
Smalley said the passion that his players bring to the court will be helpful in the semifinal.
“We’re a gutty team and we’re not going to dazzle you in warm ups,” he said, “but the kids have some heart and that’s what matters in these games.”
After the game Meade coach Pete Corriero thanked everyone one of his players for all their hard work especially the seniors who played in their last game on Butch Young Court.
He said that a lot of missed shots early on was a factor.
“We had a lot of shots early, we just didn’t hit a lot,” Corriero said. “Unfortunately sometimes the ball doesn’t go in the basket.”
“They made more plays when the game was on the line,” he added. “We had our opportunities to extend our lead or to regain the lead and we didn’t do that. At the end of the day that’s all you can ask for, is the opportunity with the ball in your hands.”
With the program graduating four seniors, he looks to see this year’s juniors to step up,
“We have a good group coming back and I’m excited about that.”