Severna Park cruised to a 33-point victory over North County in a regular-season game in January, but the Falcons faced a much tougher battle when the two teams met again in a Class 4A East Region Section I playoff on Wednesday night.
Taylor Kitzmiller scored a game-high 23 points and Jerrell Harris added 15, five of which came in the fourth quarter and helped No. 13 Severna Park hold on for a 69-65 victory over the Knights in a second-round playoff game.
Severna Park improved to 22-2 and stretched its winning streak to 15 with the victory. The Falcons will take on Glen Burnie at home on Thursday. The Gophers advanced after a 61-60 victory at Meade .
In a rematch of their 80-47 win over North County in the regular season, Severna Park never trailed in Wednesday's game, but their offense didn't get into a groove that let them take charge.
The Falcons jumped to a 14-point lead late in the second quarter, but the Knights (7-17) used tough defense to manufacture scoring chances and stay close.
North County pushed hard in the final quarter, cutting the lead to 68-65 on a Corey Martin 3-pointer with 16.2 seconds left. Severna Park made only 6 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons did a good job of running down the clock and keeping possession in the final minutes.
"[North County] played really hard and … with a lot of energy," Severna Park coach Paul Pellicani said. "At this point of the year, it's all about advancing and we did … [but] there's no style points."
Kitzmiller sparked the Severna Park offense in the first half. He scored 18 points before the break, 13 of which came in the second quarter as the Falcons appeared in charge with a 39-29 lead.
North County used its quickness and speed on defense to rally in the second half. Coach Andrew Lazzor said the Knights knew that Severna Park had a big size advantage, so they wanted to stop the Falcons from pounding the ball down low.
The Knights often double-teamed the Severna Park guards and would run and jump to disrupt the offense. They forced seven turnovers in the second half, which often led to scores for Martin (22 points), Michael Jordan (14) and Elijah Lynch (12).
"Our quickness was our advantage," Lazzor said. "We gave up some easy baskets, but it worked and we got the steals that we needed."
But the Falcons stayed calm in the final minutes as North County kept rallying. Harris, the point guard, kept running the offense, and the Falcons did a good job of moving the ball, eating up time and drawing fouls.
In addition to Kitzmiller and Harris, Grahm Watson and Chris Lee both added 11 points. Pellicani said this team is loaded with seniors — Harris, Kitzmiller and others — who have grown together on varsity.
"We're a really veteran team, and we've been through these situations a lot," Kitzmiller said.
The Falcons had been off for about two weeks, but neither Kitzmiller or Pellicani would use that as an excuse for their performance. Instead, Pellicani was pleased with how strongly his players came through in a situation in which they could have fallen apart.
"They've been through a lot together," Pellicani said.
13Severna Park 69, North County 65
N- Howard 2, Holeman 2, Martin 22, Beamon 2, Marshall 11, Lynch 12, Jordan 14. Totals: 31 2-6 65.
S-Harris 15, Zuby 2, Watson 11, Kitzmiller 23, Tinordi 2, Agee 6, Lee 11. Totals: 23 17-28 69. Half: S, 39-29.