Meade's Keith Duffin must have really enjoyed the feeling of winning a state championship last year. So much so that when his team needed a lift late in Wednesday's game with Glen Burnie, Duffin provided one.
Duffin scored nine points in the fourth quarter, including seven in the final 2 minutes, 30 seconds, to help Meade fight back from a late four-point deficit and knock off Glen Burnie, 69-64, in the Class 4A East Region Section I final.
Meade (21-3) advances to the region final, where it will host Annapolis Friday night at 7 with a chance for its second straight region title.
"I just never gave up. It's my senior year, and I wasn't going to go out like that," said Duffin, who finished with 11 points and a team-high 11 rebounds. "We came together and had confidence in ourselves. We didn't turn on each other, and I'm just happy we got the win."
RaQuan McCain's 3-pointer gave Glen Burnie a 60-56 lead with 3:50 left in the game. With the Gophers with the ball and looking to extend their lead, Duffin blocked McCain's shot and was rewarded on the other end with a layup in transition that cut the lead to two. His three-point play a minute later put the Mustangs up by one, but Glen Burnie regained the lead 15 seconds later when Eric Powell scored down low.
With the Mustangs' season on the line, Duffin's tip-in at the 1:35 mark put the Mustangs back on top and started an 8-0 run that clinched the game.
"It feels great to play the region final at home for the second year in a row," Duffin said. "Us seniors know how it feels, so we're just going to come out and play hard and hopefully get the win."
Wednesday's game had the feel of a region final, with the top two teams in the county meeting for the third time this year. Outside of Meade's short-lived eight-point lead early in the second half, neither team led by more than five points the rest of the game. There were eight lead changes in the first half, then six more over the final five minutes of the game.
"We're a veteran group and an experienced group. We've been tested this year, which is different than last year," Meade coach Pete Corriero said. "We've had a lot of close games this year and we've taken a lot of teams' best punches."
Tristan Easton led the Mustangs with 31 points, four rebounds, four steals and three assists. He showed more explosiveness off the dribble on Wednesday than in Monday's game with Arundel and hit 9 of his 11 field goal attempts from inside the three-point-line. He added three from beyond the arc and scored at least five points in each quarter.
"We've been through adversity all season," Easton said. "My team showed me it can persevere through anything. They've got my back, just like I got theirs."
Syvan Sturdivant added 13 points and three assists for the Mustangs, who defeated Annapolis, 67-51, in the team's regular-season meeting on Feb. 17. Friday's matchup will feature the last two Class 4A East Region champions.
"We look at this as preparing us," Corriero said. "What we'll see Friday will be nothing different than what we've seen from Arundel and now from Glen Burnie. We've been tested, and we're excited for Friday. Annapolis has a lot of pride, and they're no stranger to being here on a yearly basis."
Dayvon Cuffey led the Gophers with 29 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out with 2:15 left in the game. McCain followed with 14 points and seven assists and Jayson Mouzon added 13 points and five rebounds for the Gophers, who lost to the Mustangs three times this year and went 18-3 in their other games.
"I couldn't ask for more effort than that," Glen Burnie coach Mike Rudd said. "This is a tough way to go out, and it was very emotional to tell six very dedicated seniors thank you for a great job rebuilding this program. When they first got here, we were down. We're back, and I just told our nine returners we're going to have to build on this for next year."
Glen Burnie (18-6)13181518-64Meade (21-3)16161819-69
Glen Burnie (64)
McCain 5(2) 2-4 14; Helinski 0 0-0 0; Powell 2 0-0 4; Watkins 2 0-0 4; Cuffey 12 5-7 29; Mouzon 4(3) 2-4 13; Santos 0 0-0 0; Avent 0 0-0 0; Smoot 0 0-0 0; Richardson 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 25(5) 9-16 64
Easton 12(3) 4-7 31; Jackson 1 3-4 5; Qualls 1 0-0 2; Sturdivant 4(1) 4-5 13; Duffin 5 1-3 11; Elder 1 1-2 3; Washington 1 0-0 2; Huff 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 26(4) 13-22 69