Other than winning a championship, few things in sports are as enjoyable as redemption.
Annapolis guard Todd Nicolini took advantage of his team's second chance to led No. 10 Annapolis to a 60-55 victory over No. 9 Arundel last night in the Capital city.
Nicolini, a 5-foot-11 senior, scored a team-high 17 points on four three-pointers, and went 5-for-6 from the foul line in the final 44 seconds to seal the win for the Panthers (14-4 overall).
Annapolis started the second round of Anne Arundel County South Division play by knocking Arundel (14-4) out of first place. nTC It had to be one of the best played games of the county season with less than 15 turnovers between the two teams.
In division games, Annapolis and Arundel are now both 4-2 while No. 8 Broadneck (14-4), a 47-45 winner at Southern last night, is 5-1 and in first.
Arundel took the first meeting with Annapolis on their home court in Gambrills, 57-48, on Dec. 17 with Nicolini not a factor. Nicolini scored only two points from the foul line in the first period of that game, but was the man last night.
"We wanted to make a statement that we have gotten better since that first game," said Nicolini.
Brian Barber (16 points, game high 14 rebounds) and Germaine "Boo" Diggs (nine points, 13 rebounds), the Panthers' 6-7 duo inside, played great floor games, but it was Nicolini's performance down the stretch that enabled Annapolis to overcome another superb effort by the Wildcats' Tony Ross.
The 6-5 and 225-pound Ross scored a game-high 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
After Arundel's Jamell Miller (13 points, six rebounds) tied the game for the ninth and final time at 48, with just over four minutes remaining, Nicolini drained his fourth three-pointer and the team's sixth to make it 51-48 with 3: 30 left.
A put-back by Barber after a Diggs miss in the paint, pushed the Annapolis lead to 53-48.
Two free throws by Miller with 1: 04 left cut the lead to 53-50, but Nicolini sank the front end of a one-and-one to make it 54-50. When Nicolini missed the second attempt, Barber put it back in the hole to make it 56-50.
Ross answered with a put-back and it ws 56-52 and Nicolini was immediately fouled with 23 seconds left. Nicolini calmly sank them both to shove the lead back to six (58-52) only to have Miller knock down a three with 18 seconds showing and it was 58-55.
With six seconds left, Nicolini sealed the verdict by getting all nylon on a pair from the stripe.
Arundel scored only nine points in the final period.
"Give Annapolis credit for giving us a lot of trouble by going to that 3-2 or 1-2-2 zone in the last period and we didn't attack it," said Wildcats coach V.J. Keith. "Our spacing was really tight and that made it difficult for us to get the ball inside."
Pub Date: 2/08/97