There is a reason Loyola's Jerry Savage has won more games (561) than any active coach in the metro area and the Dons nearly gave him one of his biggest last night.
Savage and assistant coach Pat Maggio devised a masterful game plan in slowing down run-and-gun Annapolis before bowing, 53-31, in the Capital City Classic.
Not able to match up in terms of quickness, size and athleticism, the Dons (6-5) trailed the No. 3-ranked and host Running Panthers (8-0) by only 20-16 at the break.
However, 6-foot-5 Annapolis junior Marques Johnson scored seven of his game-high 22 points in a decisive 13-6 third period.
"It was a good test for us, because we think a lot of teams will try to play us that way this year because of our speed," said Johnson, who had five rebounds. "We just had to get our act together in the second half."
Sophomore Marcus Neal, the only other Panther in double digits with 14 points, scored the other six points in that third period and the Panthers went on to shoot 60 percent (15-for-25) in the second half after hitting about half that in the first half.
Annapolis edged Landon Prep of Bethesda, 50-48, to win last year's Capital City Classic. Loyola won the tournament twice during the '80s and had not been back since.
No. 14 Oakland Mills (6-2) took the consolation, 69-63, over North County (3-5) as Anthony Breland scored 35 points. Chuck Willis had 19 for the Knights.
Oakland Mills lost in the first game to host Annapolis for the second straight year Tuesday, 83-67, but knocked off North County for the second straight season in the consolation.
In the first 16 minutes of last night's final, Loyola totally frustrated the cold-shooting Panthers and trailed only by four points at intermission. The Dons used a triangle-and-two defense, putting a lot of pressure on the ball, causing the hosts to commit seven turnovers.
After shooting a torrid 58 percent the night before against Oakland Mills, Annapolis was reduced to a 32 percent effort in the first half, hitting only eight of 25 shots against the Loyola pressure.
Thomas Hawkins (nine points, game-high totals of eight rebounds and six assists) and Johnson had seven points each for Annapolis, but the Dons took anywhere from 30 seconds to over a minute off the clock in their half-court offense each time down the floor.
Loyola's Tim Hyle scored nine of his team-high 11 points in the first two periods.
"We run what we call a triangle delay game that we usually use against a team like Annapolis," said Savage. "We felt the only chance we had was to keep the game close and try to frustrate them.
"But when you run that you have to make all your layups and foul shots and take advantage of every opportunity, don't turn the ball over. Our purpose was to keep the ball as long as we could or until we got a layup."
That's precisely what the Dons did with superb ball handling, crisp passing and pressure defense.
"But they made a couple adjustments at halftime," said Savage. "They switched on it, dropped the wing man in a little closer and protected the basket a little bit more in the back."
In the second half, Neal (six rebounds, four steals, three assists) and Johnson got the Panthers going with the former scoring the first four points of the third period. Johnson then started with a three and seven straight points and suddenly it was a 31-21 Annapolis lead.
Hawkins fed Neal on a layup and the Panthers took a 33-21 lead into the final eight minutes. The deficit quickly ballooned to 18 points (47-29) as Hawkins notched his sixth assist of the game with Johnson on the finish.
"We're just not used to that slowdown pace," said Hawkins. "They kept passing that ball around, but we put more pressure on them in the second half."
Pub Date: 12/31/98