After last night's 76-68 loss to Anne Arundel County 4A foe Glen Burnie, Arundel coach Gerald Moore summed up the importance of winning crucial late-season games.
"I told my guys that now is the time to be a contender, or a pretender," he said. "The contenders are going to be hanging around come playoff time, the pretenders will be going home. We have to decide right now which one we want to be, the pretender or the contender."
During the first half of action, the No. 18 Wildcats (12-7, 7-4 league) were pretending to give the No. 10 Gophers (16-3, 10-1) a tough game.
Glen Burnie jumped to a 40-24 lead over its host after the first 16 minutes of play. During the half, the Gophers put on an unselfish exhibition of fast-break basketball while out-rebounding their opponents, 29-11 (54-26 for the game).
Arundel came out with a vengeance in the second half, as it rattled off 13 unanswered points to cut the lead to 64-60 with 4:17 left in the game. Sean Soyars (23 points, eight rebounds) led the way with six points during the surge, and Bakari Ward (16 points, four assists, four steals) and Jeff Hedrick (11 points, six rebounds, five assists) added five and two points, respectively.
"They had us on the ropes in the second half. We stopped doing the things that made us so successful in the first half, and Arundel took advantage of it," said Glen Burnie coach Terry Bogle.
Jeff Dickerson's driving three-point play helped give the Gophers some breathing room. He then sank four straight free throws in the final minute to help clinch the game. The 6-foot-2 senior forward finished the game with a team-high 15 points to go with a game-high 10 rebounds.
"We played great for two quarters and then went cold. I'm proud of the way we hung in there when they made their run. We kept our composure and got the win," said Bogle.
Desmond Dailey's three-pointer with 3:20 remaining in the first quarter ignited a 33-14 run, giving the visitors their biggest lead of the night at 39-20 with 1:30 left in the half. Marquis Farmer's two-handed jam off a feed from Shawn Mahaney (six assists) highlighted the spree.
Farmer added 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocks before fouling out with more than four minutes remaining in the game.
Dailey also scored 14 points, and Andre Bryan had 10 off the bench.
William "Peanut" Brown (seven points, four assists) and Scott Ledbetter each grabbed nine rebounds.
Glen Burnie can clinch the top spot in Region IV by defeating Severna Park at home, and Annapolis and Old Mill on the road. The Wildcats held the fourth playoff spot prior to tip-off time.