The game went just the way Annapolis coach John Brady hoped, until his team went cold from the floor in the final eight minutes. His Panthers couldn't buy a field goal.
Annapolis took a 53-52 lead into the final period in the Class 4A state semifinals at Cole Field House last night, but poor shooting from the floor led to a 71-64 loss to Northwestern of Prince George's County.
While the No. 7 Panthers (21-6) couldn't find the cylinder down the stretch, hitting only three of 15 from the floor, the Wildcats (18-7) sank 11 of 12 free throws (17-for-19 total) to advance to tomorrow's 8 p.m. final against Southern-Baltimore, a 74-35 winner over Paint Branch in the other semifinal.
Northwestern last made it to Cole Field House in 1987, when it won a state title behind Jay Bias. In the semifinals that year, the Wildcats knocked off Annapolis, 69-56, with Bias scoring 24.
"We played the way we wanted to play, and if we had hit all our layups, we would have won by 10," said Brady, who led Annapolis to a state-record 23rd appearance (Brady's 12th) in the final four. "We got the shots we wanted, but just didn't make them."
Annapolis had a five-point lead at 59-54 with 4: 46 left after a pair of free throws by 6-foot-6 junior Brian Barber (12 points, 10 rebounds, two blocked shots). Northwestern's No. 6 man, junior guard Mike Scott, hit back-to-back three-pointers to put the Wildcats up 60-59 with 3: 30 remaining.
"When we got it up to five the first time, it could have been six, had it not been that we had a free throw taken away," said Brady, referring to a lane violation that took away John Downs' second free throw with 5: 41 remaining.
Had it counted, Annapolis would have had a 58-52 lead. A pair of free throws from Northwestern's Randy Dickerson (15 points, nine rebounds) were answered by a pair from Barber to make it 59-54 before Scott's pair of threes.
Annapolis would take the lead one final time.
Phil Hyman (team-high 15 points) drained his second three of the last period to give the Panthers a 62-60 lead with just under three minutes remaining.
Kevin Perkins' basket tied it at 62 and after Germaine "Boo" Diggs (11 points, seven rebounds, three blocks) missed two from the stripe, Perkins (12 points, six assists) began the Wildcats' string of seven free throws in succession and nine of 10 to finish the game.
Perkins hit four in a row and 6-7 forward Sean Smith (12 points, 14 rebounds) sank five of six.
"I had been kind of unhappy with our free-throw percentage [64 percent coming in] until the last couple weeks," said Northwestern coach Leonard Wood. "The kids started working harder from the line the last couple weeks and Smith was one who stayed around after practice."
Wood's big men -- 6-9 Jamar Gaither (17 points, seven rebounds before fouling out), Smith and Dickerson -- controlled the boards, out-rebounding the Panthers 40-29.
Diggs had nine of his points and three of his rebounds in the third period as Annapolis took a 53-50 lead late in that period. After an Annapolis miss, Gaither's basket closed it to 53-52 to end the third.
Seven turnovers in the second period put Annapolis behind by before Hyman and Dacey led them on a 10-0 run to close the half.
After a Barber basket, Hyman hit a two and followed it with a three to make it a 39-33 deficit for the Panthers.
Dacey then sank a three as time ran out to leave Annapolis down, 39-36.
Annapolis won the East Region with four victories (Glen Burnie, Northern-Calvert, Calvert and Old Mill) to qualify for its first appearance at Cole since 1991.
"I have no complaints about our team's effort," said Brady.
Pub Date: 3/08/96