Top-ranked Annapolis won its 17th Anne Arundel County Championship in 24 years under coach John Brady with a hard-earned 80-74 victory over No. 14 North County last night at Meade High School.
The Panthers' veteran trio of Marcus Neal (game-high 25 points), Marcus Johnson (23) and Thomas Hawkins (21) combined for 69 points.
Annapolis shot 37 percent (26 of 71), but it sank 22 of 27 at the foul line and drained six three-pointers, including three by Neal.
With senior Mark Jennings leading four Knights in double digits with 20 points and five assists, North County outshot the Panthers, hitting 29 of 62 from the field.
The Class 4A Knights had only three three-pointers and made 13 of 14 free throws.
In running their record to 22-0, the 3A Panthers broke the county public school record for most consecutive wins (21), set in 1982-83 by Meade, the site of last night's championship game, and tied the county's overall mark of 22 straight by Severn (25-2) in 1992-93.
The repeat county championship by the Panthers also ties Broadneck for most won under the championship game format. Broadneck won the first two finals in 1996 and '97, with Meade winning over Annapolis in '98.
"We made a couple more shots in a great game," Panthers coach John Brady said. "The game came down to a couple possessions, and we did what we had to do. Our defense kept us in it, and it came down to who makes the foul shots."
The Panthers sank 10 of 12 free throws in the final period, including seven of the last eight in the final 35 seconds.
In its 10th season of basketball, North County proved to be a competitive opponent in its first appearance in the county championship.
Annapolis won the only regular-season meeting between the two, 69-54, on Jan. 24.
Jennings, who became the first Knight to crack 1,000 career points last night, scored 16 of his points in the first half and according to Brady was "unbelievable, we couldn't stop him."
But the Panthers, who led 43-42 at halftime, countered with Johnson (17), Neal (15) and Hawkins (11), who combined to score all of their team's points in the first half.
There were 17 lead changes in the first half, and the two teams were not separated by more than one to three points until the Panthers closed the third period with a 13-5 run to go up 64-55.
The Knights (16-6), who set a school record for wins this season, topping the 15-9 campaign in 1995-96 under Brad Wilson, have developed into a quality team under second-year coach Mike Francis.
Jennings was complemented by Jerome Goodman (13 points), who had game-high totals of 11 rebounds and four blocked shots, sophomore Corey Bowie (17 points, 10 rebounds, three steals), and senior Bryan Hall (12 points, six rebounds, three blocks, two assists).