Third-seeded Glenelg boys basketball took care of business in the first round of the 2A South playoffs on Friday night, using a third-quarter surge to distance itself from sixth-seeded Hammond in its eventual 67-37 home win.
The Gladiators (13-10) relied on their usual contributors, as senior Ryan Davis turned in another double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds) and senior Garrett Mills (10 assists) often found his teammates for open shots. One of the beneficiaries of Mills’ passing prowess was junior guard Hunter Koele, who spearheaded the team’s scoring run after halftime en route to putting up a season-high 13 points.
Coach Jansen McMillan pointed to his group’s preparation during the week as the main reason it was able to secure its seventh win in the past nine games.
“We had five days to prepare,” McMillan said. “Probably our five best practices of the season.”
Glenelg will next play at No. 2 seed and co-county champion Oakland Mills on Monday in the 2A South quarterfinals.
“The keys to beating them is that we have to make sure we’re ready for their press, because they have a really good press as well,” Koele said. “They have a lot of really good drivers as well and they’re really big, so we’ve got to make sure we box out and rebound.”
Koele said the team spent all week focusing on Hammond’s full-court press. They knew if they could string together quick passes and get the ball to the middle, which was the weak spot of the defense, they could break the zone and therefore create easy scoring opportunities.
Glenelg rarely saw the press in the first quarter because of its work on the defensive end. The Golden Bears (6-17) scored seven points in the period, and when they missed, their wasn’t enough time to set up their full-court defense. The Gladiators capitalized on that pitfall with an efficient half-court offense, which yielded 15 points and helped them gain a comfortable lead entering the second frame.
The lead ballooned to double digits over the next few minutes but dwindled from there. Hammond began hitting shots and disrupting Glenelg with that full-court pressure. To Koele, the Golden Bears sped up the Gladiators, forcing poor decisions and errant passes that resulted in turnovers.
McMillan said they ran through these situations leading up to the game but added “it’s hard to simulate [Hammond’s] press in practice,” because of its players’ athleticism, quickness and length.
“I challenged them at halftime, like did they want their season to end?” McMillan said. “I thought Hammond outplayed us in the first half, regardless of what the score was.”
The Golden Bears pulled within one possession after converting back-to-back layups to start the third quarter and seem to hold all of the momentum. But in a season filled with close losses — coach Mike Salapata said the team went 1-8 in games that were within one possession with less than a minute to go — they again could not figure out a way to completely erase the deficit.
Over the next few possessions, junior Johnny Piwowarski (nine points) nailed his second of three 3-pointers, Koele sunk a contested hook shot and Davis scored a layup in transition to put the Gladiators back up seven. And Hammond, which tried to halt the momentum with a timeout, only fell into a deeper hole.
Trailing, 41-30, after three periods, the Golden Bears amassed four points in the fourth as the game quickly got out of hand. It marked their 10th loss in 11 games to end the season.
“When you look at your schedule, we just never figured out a way to win close games,” Salapata said. “We played hard all year, the kids competed; we just never got all the way over that hump at the end of games.”
Glenelg, meanwhile, has played its best basketball of the season in the past month and will look to sustain that success against Oakland Mills, which has won its past eight county games. One of those triumphs was a 58-50 road win over the Gladiators on Feb. 6. The teams also played at the beginning of the season, a game in which Scorpions prevailed, 57-39.
But after handling Hammond, McMillan is confident his team will be up to the challenge Monday night.
“The good thing about playing Hammond and Oakland Mills is that we know they’re going to run the same type of defense, so that definitely helps us,” McMillan said. “But, we know Oakland Mills, they’re the county champs for a reason. So, we’re looking forward to it on Monday."
About two weeks after its 60-48 home loss to Wilde Lake, Marriotts Ridge avenged that defeat Friday night in the opening round of the 2A South region playoffs.
The fifth-seeded Mustangs, who had four players score in double figures, led the entire game before holding on at the end. With about 15 seconds left in a one-possession game, senior Luke Ingersoll (10 points) missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Wildecats sophomore Marcus Mitchell then had an clean look at a 3-pointer but missed it off the back rim.
The errant attempt sealed the Mustangs’ first win since Jan. 31 against Atholton.
Juniors Brandon Held (13 points) and Ryan Lee (12 points) joined Ingersoll in the double-digits, but Marriotts Ridge likely would not have pulled out this win without Cole Brown. The junior center scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter by running the pick and roll with Ingersoll and either finishing at the rim or carraling the offensive rebound and converting the putback. Wilde Lake did not seem to have an answer.
On the other end of the floor, coach Tim Brady praised Ingersoll for his defense on junior guard Trea Keys, who finished with 15 points.
The win gives Marriotts Ridge its third chance to knock off No. 1 seed and co-county champion River Hill. The teams played twice during the regular season, with the Hawks winning the first matchup, 61-58, and then pulling away in their second meeting Feb. 9. In both contests, coach Brady’s team was in position to win in the final moments.
The Mustangs and Hawks will face off in Clarksville on Monday night at 6 p.m.
Marriotts Ridge (9-14) — 60, Wilde Lake (9-13) – 58
MR — Cole Brown 15, Held 13, Lee 12, Ingersoll 10, Little 8, Ross 2.