Mustangs' depth gets best of 'Cats

Bob Hough

Tristan Easton is Meade's top scorer and best player.

As the Mustangs proved on Monday, though, he's not their only weapon.

While Easton did manage to score 14 points — including 12 in the second half — three other Mustangs were in double-figures in a 69-62 victory over Arundel in a Class 4A East Region Section I semifinal.

Meade (20-3) advances to the section final, where it will host Glen Burnie on Wednesday.

Josh Qualls led Meade with 16 points — including 12 in the first half — while Jerrel Elder followed with 11 points and Keith Duffin added 10. The Mustangs trailed by as many as seven points in the first half and by three at halftime, but quickly took control in the second half by opening on a 17-1 run to build a 13-point lead.

"The run was big," Meade coach Pete Corriero said. "At halftime, there was no panic or yelling. We got the lead (in the third quarter) and never lost it. We were in control once we got the lead."

Though the Mustangs did take control with the run, Arundel hung around and cut the lead to one in the game's final minute. The Mustangs were able to put the game away by hitting eight straight free throws in the final 54 seconds.

"Getting that run was really important for us," said Elder, who scored nine of his points in the second half, including going 6 for 8 from the foul line. "We got that momentum and just kept going."

Duffin scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, including four during the run to open the half. He added four more points in the final minute to help stave off a late Arundel rally.

"It's a team game. We have a good team, and Tristan trusts in us and we trust in Tristan," said Duffin, who added five rebounds and four steals. "We don't really need one player to score. All of us can score, rebound and play hard."

Elder added six rebounds, all on the defensive end, for the Mustangs, who played catch up in the first half thanks to the hot shooting of Arundel's Josh McRobie. Arundel's main 3-point threat hit four from long range in the first half and led all scorers with 17 points at the break and finished with 25.

With Easton not feeling 100 percent, Qualls scored 12 points in the first half to keep the Mustangs in the game. Qualls finished with a team-high 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting and added six rebounds and three assists.

"Josh is solid," Corriero said. "He plays super hard. He can finish, play defense and hit some free throws. Josh does everything you need a basketball player to do."

With Arundel feeding off the momentum of Friday's come-from-behind victory over North County, McRobie's shooting helped it build the lead in the first half and rally in the second once Meade went ahead. He hit two more 3-pointers in the second half for the Wildcats, who finished with 10.

"He did a great job. He was definitely on fire in the first half," Arundel coach Jeff Starr said. "They were really keying on him in the second half and not giving him as many open looks, but he didn't press. He did a good job of staying within what we wanted to do."

Darnell Whitfield added 19 points and seven rebounds, Rob Colvin had nine points and six rebounds and Christian Thornton had 11 assists and eight rebounds for Arundel, which won 17 games this year after finishing just 9-14 last year.

"This group of returning players put Arundel basketball back to where we belong," Starr said. "We had a couple of down years, but our goal was to get back to being a county and region contender."

Meade defeated Glen Burnie twice this year, and with a win on Wednesday, would host the region final on Friday in an effort for a second straight region title. The teams just met last Monday in the regular-season finale, with the Mustangs building a big lead and hanging on for a four-point victory.

"Mike (Rudd) will have his guys ready, but we'll be ready, too," Corriero said. "It's two heavyweights playing to get to the region final."

Arundel (17-7)11191418-62Meade (20-3)11162319-69

Arundel (62)

Thornton 1(1) 0-1 3; McRobie 9(6) 1-1 25; Whitfield 6(3) 4-5 19; Colvin 4 1-2 9; Walker 0 1-4 1; Joyner 1 1-2 3; Hogan 1 0-2 2; TOTALS: 22(10) 8-17 62

Meade (69)

Easton 4(2) 4-4 14; Jackson 2(1) 0-0 5; Qualls 7 2-2 16; Sturdivant 2(1) 0-0 5; Duffin 4 2-2 10; Elder 1(1) 8-10 11; Washington 2 0-2 4; Huff 2 0-0 4; Williams 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 24(5) 16-20 69.

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