Cougars place second as Perry Hall takes boys basketball 4-A state title
COLLEGE PARK – Senior guard Mitch Czworka went for the pass, down 59-56 with a few seconds on the clock, in hopes of nabbing the championship for the Quince Orchard.
But forward junior Tyler Holley would have none of that, blocking Czworka and forcing a turnover that dashed the hopes of the Cougars, ending the game at 59-56 and crowning the Perry Hall Gators as state champions.
“We’ll look back and reflect, and it’ll be a great season in the end, but right now I’m just really disappointed we didn’t get the last one,” said senior Cougars forward Johnny Fierstein.
It was a state final filled with unknowns. Both teams did not expect the other to be here. In the news conference after the Cougars dispatched the Wise Pumas, Coach Paul Foringer mentioned he knew little to nothing about the Gators.
Gators head coach George Panageotou shared the similar sentiment, admitting that he expected to play the Pumas, and the Cougars were a surprise.
“We go down and watch Wise in the season because we thought we might match …we knew nothing. You ask their coach in their press conference, I watched it, he didn’t know anything about us,” said Panageotou.
The Cougars could not slow down the game as they did against the Wise Pumas. The Gators were an aggressive team, and with a majority of its players over 6 feet tall and three over 6 feet, 5 inches tall, they were imposing as well. They suffocated the shooter by covering them with multiple defenders, and their height made short work of gaining possession.
The Cougars tried to play at their own pace though: At one point, senior guard Matt Kelly held onto the ball, draining the clock, as two teammates came up to him to presumably talk strategy with about a minute left.
Perry Hall fans started to boo, and the Cougars lost possession accompanied by junior Gator forward LaQuill Hardnett sinking a shot for two.
The second quarter showed what the Gators defense could do, as their blocking and rebounding held the Cougars to only nine points.
There was a bright spot for the Cougars Saturday night, and that was Kelly, who scored 22 points, the highest of any player on either team. In the third quarter he scored nine points from three three-point shots.
“Matt Kelly, 22 points, and I’m throwing every guy I have at him to try to slow him down,” said Panageotou.
Kelly held it down in the fourth quarter as he scored eight of 11 points, dashing to the paint more instead of creating plays with his passes.
On the verge of winning it in regulation time, Hardnett scored with a second left to send the game into overtime.
Overtime saw the Gators get a second wind and capitalize on the Cougars’ mistakes, even though they only won by three points. Foul trouble had the Gators at the line six times, where they shot for 40 percent.
In the last seconds of the game, the turnover by Czworka to Holley signaled the end of this season’s championship run for the Cougars.
“I know that they’re upset because they lost the state championship. But I’m certain that after this wears off, that they’ll realize what they’ve accomplished this season. It’s unbelievable,” said Foringer.
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