St. Paul's provided retiring coach Rick Collins with a victory in his final regular-season home game, but it did not come easily. The Crusaders opened a 13-point gap in the third quarter, then used late free throws to hold off No. 12 Severn, 58-51.
A standing-room-only crowd watched this matchup of division leaders in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference, and for the second straight year St. Paul's (18-5, 11-2) ended a Severn (17-4, 10-2) winning streak. Last year it was 11 games; this time 16 games.
The widest margin either way was six points, the game was tied six times, and the lead changed hands six times, as well, in the first 19 minutes. At that point, the home team led, 34-31, and there was no reason to think it would not continue as a close encounter.
However, Adair Newhall, a captain and one of three senior starters for Collins, ignited a rally when he nonchantly threw up a shot from 25 feet that hit nothing but net. In the next two minutes, Conan Gill scored from 15 feet, Craig Whitty made two foul shots, and Newhall came back with another three-pointer to cap a 10-0 spurt.
It was 46-35 going into to the last quarter, and the Crusaders were to survive despite making only two field goals the rest of the way. They did it at the line, making eight of 13 chances after the Admirals had closed to within 50-46 headed into the final two minutes. St. Paul's ended 11-for-18 from the foul line.
Severn scored just two baskets in the first six minutes of the last quarter but climbed back into contention by hitting seven of 11 foul shots. It was an accuracy that had failed the Severna Park school earlier and later, as it finished 16-for-31.
"We didn't play as well as we can," Severn coach Charles Duckett said. "Even though it was a big game, we didn't seem to have the motivation. We didn't rebound, and we didn't make our free throws."
Newhall, who called his effort -- one that included tough defense and solid rebounding to go with 23 points -- one of his best games, knew coming in his team had to prepare itself for a big game.
"We beat them for the championship last year, and had to be ready for them again," he said.
Collins said, "We did a good job of boxing out, we showed a lot of poise, and we fought hard." St. Paul's had to battle Severn's 6-foot-9 Jeff Hatch and 6-5 1/2 Winston Johnson with 6-3 Newhall, 6-3 Chad Unitas, and 6-2 Justin Singleton.
Singleton backed Newhall with 14 points. Dennard Melton's 14 led three double-figure scorers for the visitors.
Pub Date: 2/15/97