COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- At yesterday's state Class 1A boys basketball championship game, a Joppatowne fan held up a banner that read, "We Want Dunbar and UNLV."
The Mariners won't get Dunbar, the area's No. 1 team, or Nevada-Las Vegas, the nation's top college team, but they do have back-to-back state titles.
Joppatowne played perhaps its best quarter this season, outscoring Pocomoke, 37-10, in the fourth quarter to turn a seven-point deficit into a 67-47 win at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.
Joppatowne is the first boys team to win back-to-back state titles since Gwynn Park won a Class 3A title in 1987 and a Class 2A in 1988. Thomas Johnson (Class 3A) was the most recent team to win back-to-back state titles in the same classification (1985-86).
"This [championship] is better than last year because we didn't have the depth we had last year," said senior center Kevin Hockaday, one of three starters back from last year's team.
Hockaday was a force yesterday after being limited to just a strong second half in a semifinal win over Williamsport on Friday. Yesterday he scored 16 points and had 15 rebounds as Joppatowne beat Pocomoke on the boards, 36-23.
Senior guard Terrence Cain scored 23, 18 in the fourth quarter, although 14 came after the Mariners used a 15-0 run at the start of the quarter to build a 45-37 lead and take control.
Everything came together for the Mariners (20-4) in the fourth quarter. They came within six points of tying the tournament record for most points in a quarter. A major part of the problem for Pocomoke in the fourth was fatigue. The Warriors used their five starters for most of the three quarters.
"It was a hell of a three quarters, but we ran out of gas and had tired legs," said Pocomoke coach Dave Byrd. "We've been turning it over all year [16 turnovers yesterday]. We did exactly what we wanted to early, just like we drew it up, but Joppatowne's a great team. They shot the lights out in the fourth quarter."
After being limited to 12 of 41 shooting from the field for three quarters thanks to a quick and aggressive 1-3-1 zone by the Warriors, Joppatowne hit 13 of 15 field-goal tries in the fourth quarter.
The Mariners also took control defensively, shutting down the Warriors (19-5) and their leader, junior forward Mike Roberts, who had scored 19 through three quarters as the Warriors built a 37-30 lead.
But in the fourth quarter, Roberts did not score as he missed all six field-goal attempts under heavy defensive pressure from senior forward B.J. Barnes, who had three steals yesterday for a two-game tournament total of nine.
"When B.J. switched to Roberts and started shutting him down, it got the rest of the team going," said Hockaday.
Without Roberts, the Warriors offense was ineffective. Pocomoke made just three of 11 field-goal tries, and all three came in the final 1 minute, 30 seconds, after the Mariners had built their largest lead, 55-43, with 1:42 left. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Warriors had made 15 of 30 field-goal tries.
Hockaday scored five and had an assist as the Mariners ran off 15 straight points to start the quarter and take a 45-37 lead with 4:00 left. During that stretch, Pocomoke committed four turnovers and missed two shots from the field.
It was quite a turnaround for Joppatowne, which made just two of its past nine from the field and committed two turnovers down the stretch in the third quarter, as Pocomoke scored 10 of the last 15 points of the quarter and seemed in control.