Gaithersburg Trojans fall to Perry Hall Gators in boys hoops state semis, 85-62

Gaithersburg senior guard Kevin Neal (3) runs into the brick wall that is Perry Hall senior forward Anthony Higgs (24). PHOTO BY JACQUI SOUTHGaithersburg Trojans' senior guard Kevin Neal (3) runs into the brick wall that is the Perry Hall Gators' senior forward Anthony Higgs (24). The Trojans would fall to the Gators, 85-62. PHOTO BY JACQUI SOUTH  COLLEGE PARK — The Gaithersburg Trojans were simply overmatched by the Perry Hall Gators Thursday night in the Maryland 4A state semifinals at Xfinity Center.

Although the Trojans sought to capture their first state championship in 20 years, Gaithersburg couldn’t handle a Perry Hall varsity boys basketball team that was on a mission.

Perry Hall, the defending Maryland 4A state champion, moved a step closer to another state title by posting an 85-62 victory over the Trojans.

Xavier Gravette led four Gators in double figures with a game-high 19 points and Tyler Holley added 17 points while Anthony Walker and Anthony Higgs added 15 points each.

Perry Hall boasted a roster that most Maryland private school basketball programs would envy; the Gators feature 6-foot-9 LaQuill Hardnett along with the 6-foot-8 Walker and Higgs. Cameron Wheeler, Gravette and Holley are each listed at 6-foot-4.

“We haven’t played anybody in Montgomery County with that type of size,” Gaithersburg head coach Jeff Holda said afterward. “The closest thing would be Paint Branch.”

Gaithersburg sophomore forward Chris Kouemi (24) and Perry Hall senior forward Laquill Hardnett (1). PHOTO BY JACQUI SOUTHGaithersburg sophomore forward Chris Kouemi (24) and Perry Hall senior forward Laquill Hardnett (1). PHOTO BY JACQUI SOUTH  Hardnett, who added nine points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, has committed to the University of Cincinnati.

Holley, a two-sport standout, has committed to play football at Morgan State and Higgs, who added seven rebounds, has pledged to Ole Miss in the Southeastern Conference while Gravette, who finished with six rebounds and two assists, has opted to play wide receiver at Morgan State next season.

The Gators’ size, speed and athleticism proved to be too much for the Trojans.

“We’re tough when we get out in transition,” said Perry Hall head coach George Panageotou.

Perry Hall reached the state championship game last year and won an overtime thriller against Quince Orchard to capture the crown.

The Gators led from start to finish and compiled a 20-point advantage over Gaithersburg entering the fourth quarter.

Gaithersburg, who finished the campaign at 20-6, was led by freshmen Jao Ituka (18 points) and Jordan Hawkins (14 points) along with senior Kevin Neal who scored 10 points.

The Trojans captured the 4A West regional championship and defied the odds this season by proudly representing Montgomery County in the state semifinals.

“They’ve been a joy to coach,” said Holda, “and it’s been the best experience of my coaching career.”

The Trojans were making their first state semifinal appearance since 1998 when Gaithersburg captured their first and only state title.

“I was really proud of the team that we got here,” said Hawkins. “We worked really hard for this.”

Despite the graduation of Neal and Julio Tamakloe, the Trojans appear to have a bright future ahead with the expected return of Ituka and Hawkins.

“We just got to keep our head up,” said Hawkins. “We’re going to be back here next year for sure.”



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