Annapolis Area Christian School did just about everything it needed to do to win a championship on Wednesday.
That is, everything but stop St. John's Catholic Prep's Albert Odero.
Odero finished with a game-high 40 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with four seconds left, to lead St. John's Catholic Prep to an 83-82 victory over Annapolis Area Christian School in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference championship game at Archbishop Spalding.
Odero's final shot was the last of 10 lead changes in the game, including seven in the second half.
"We don't feel like we brought our best game," AACS coach Doug Scheidt said. "You have to give all the credit in the world to St. John's, they just came in and played hard. We beat them twice during the regular season, and it's hard to beat a good team like them three times. They played well enough to beat us."
Following Odero's shot — his fourth 3-pointer of the second half — the Eagles got the ball in the hands of Justin Williams, who got around his man and drove the baseline, but his layup fell off the front rim as time expired.
"I had a good look at it, but it just didn't fall through," Williams said. "I think I let the ball out too soon."
The story of the game, especially in the second half, was Odero. He had a pedestrian 16 points in the first half, then scored all 17 of St. John's Catholic Prep's points in the third quarter. He hit a pair of 3-pointers in a span of a minute that prevented the Eagles from starting to pull away toward the end of the quarter. AACS went up by five in the final minute, but Odero drove the baseline and threw down a dunk to cut the lead to three. AACS was still able to go to the fourth up by five after Wayne Bristol hit a short jumper as the quarter expired.
On the strength of six points apiece in the fourth from Williams and Nate Eberle, plus keeping Odero scoreless for the first four and a half minutes of the quarter, AACS maintained the lead until the three-minute mark when Elijah Boyd hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 76. The teams traded baskets over the next minute and were tied at 78 when the St. John's Catholic Prep bench was assessed a technical foul for arguing a call. Eberle hit a pair of free throws and AACS had the ball, but turned it over and Boyd drove for a layup that tied the game at 80 with 1 minute, 40 seconds left. The game remained tied until Williams' jumper gave the Eagles an 82-80 lead with 30 seconds left.
The Vikings maintained possession and worked the ball around and eventually got it to Odero, who calmly pulled up from the left side and nailed the 3-pointer to put his team ahead.
"He's confident as anything offensively, even though he had missed a few shots," St. John's Catholic Prep coach Tim Abercrombie said. "Being down two and he goes for the game-winner like that..that was our guy all year, and it was his spotlight."
Williams scored 28 points to lead the Eagles, and despite his last-second shot coming up just short, was the last AACS player who stayed on the court clapping his hands for St. John's Catholic Prep as the Vikings were awarded the championship plaque.
"He's an unbelievable kid and a program-changer, and I love him," Scheidt said. "I feel bad that he just came up short on that shot. It was a great shot and the shot we wanted, and it just came up short."
Eberle, one of seven seniors for the Eagles, added 23 points, including five 3-pointers. His last 3-pointer of the night gave the Eagles a seven-point lead with 5:10 left to play.
"We had the game. It was ours to lose," Eberle said. "This is a great group of guys and I love every one of them. It's just sad it has to end this way."
Jarrett Heckert and Wayne Bristol each followed with eight points and Kori Rawlings added seven points for AACS, which fell in the championship game for the second straight year.
"We have a lot of guys coming back and some guys that gained some valuable experience," Scheidt said.
St. John's-CP (19-9)21231722-83AACS (21-5)23222116-82
St. John's Catholic Prep (83)
Noel 5(1) 4-5 15; Waddy 4 0-0 8; Snell 0 0-0 0; Odero 16(4) 4-5 40; Boyd 7(3) 3-4 20; C. Martin 0 0-0 0; Balcerek 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 32(8) 11-13 83.
Annapolis Area Christian School (82)
J. Williams 13(2) 0-0 28; Eberle 7(5) 4-5 23; R. Rawlings 2(1) 0-0 6; Heckert 4 0-0 8; Bristol 4 0-0 8; K. Rawlings 3(1) 0-0 7; Austin 0 0-0 0; Ch. Williams 1 0-0 2.TOTALS: 34(9) 5-7 82.