Annapolis captures 20th crown in 25 years


As Meade coach Butch Young said, "It was too much Owens" for his Mustangs.

Laronja Owens, a 6-foot-1 junior guard, pumped in a game-high 43 points as No. 2 Annapolis defeated No. 10 Meade, 75-57, in Cape St. Claire for its 20th Anne Arundel boys basketball title in 25 years under coach John Brady.

In posting their 59th straight win over an Anne Arundel County opponent, the Panthers (23-0) reeled off their fourth straight county championship game victory in the seventh year of the format.

The county went to a final game in 1995-96, and Annapolis made its first appearance in 1997-98 with a 70-63 loss to Meade. The Panthers have won every final since and have gone undefeated at 17-0 (final included) in the county regular season for three consecutive years.

"We came in here tonight to play our hardest and keep the streak alive, " said Owens, who had 24 of his points in the second half. "We've been doing this a couple years."

They've been dominating in the county because they have so many ways to beat teams.

In the only meeting between the two in regular season, Annapolis rolled, 89-68, at Meade (17-6) with Owens tossing in 16 points. Junior post player, 6-foot-6 Josh Johnson, dominated the inside that night with 19 of his 31 points in the final period.

"I thought we did a good job on Johnson, but Owens got us, and it seemed like every mistake we made cost three or four or five points, not two," said Young, who quite obviously had his team concentrating on Johnson in the paint.

Johnson had 13 points and 14 rebounds last night while Owens, a point guard, kept the ball more and lit it up.

Annapolis shot 54 percent for the game, hitting 26 of 48 shots including a 15-for-24 (63 percent) effort from the floor by Owens. Owens, who had but one three-pointer, also was 12 of 15 from the free-throw line.

"Laronja has the green light [to shoot] when he brings the ball up because he makes good decisions and has good judgment," said Brady, who considers Owens one of the top three point guards he's ever had.

"He took it to them tonight because he wanted to win, not to score 43 points. Laronja is a good athlete, strong as an ox, has unbelievable basketball sense, very good skills, undaunting courage, plus he's a great guy."

Owens scored the most points (13) in the third period as the Panthers, who led by nine at halftime, maintained that advantage. Meade's Elmer Jenkins fired in three of his four three-pointers in that quarter.

Louis Benson, who kept Meade in the game in the first half by scoring 15 of his team-high 23 points, scored four of his team's mere eight points in the final eight minutes.

The Mustangs, who shot 46 percent (23-for-50) for the game but were out-rebounded 32-12, hit only four of 15 shots in the last period as Annapolis pulled away mainly on Owens' final 11 points, seven from the line.

"Coach Brady always tells me that when we get down near the end, he wants the ball in my hands because he knows I'm a good free-throw shooter," said Owens.

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