Two schools, both nicknamed Eagles, were pursuing their first Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association C Conference title in boys basketball last night.
But on the strength of its rebounding and intensity, Arlington Baptist set itself apart from Annapolis Area Christian School to win the conference final, 65-52, at Gilman.
Jason Barkley scored 16 points and had six rebounds while Tim Booker had 15 points and 11 rebounds to lead the victors.
Arlington Baptist (20-10), which lost last year's C Conference final to Friends, out-rebounded AACS 38-21.
"Rebounding was definitely the difference in the game, especially on the defensive end, where we allowed them few second chances to score," said Arlington coach Andrew Gossel.
"We had just lost to Annapolis Area by five a week before the playoffs and yes, I was concerned, but I knew we could beat them.
AACS coach Calvin Vain agreed that the rebounding was a major factor in his team's loss, but went a little further in his assessment.
"They go to the boards very well, but they also hustled the entire game while we hustled in spurts," Vain said.
Vain, who is finishing his third year at AACS, felt his Eagles never got their offense going last night after trailing only by 17-15 after the first quarter and 40-32 at the half.
AACS took the lead at 23-22 with about four minutes left in the half on a basket by Matt Sroka, but Arlington closed strong with Barkley and Mark Hamilton scoring the last four points to take an eight-point lead into halftime.
"Arlington stayed more composed and we never got our offense in sync, and that's where we have dominated most of the season," said Vain, whose son Todd flew in from Kentucky with Vain's grandson to see the game.
"We switched point guards, but we were still flustered and didn't get the ball into our big man enough."
Akai Jackson tied Sroka for the team high of 14 points. But AACS was outscored 16-9 in the third quarter to fall behind 56-41 going into the fourth.
Besides its rebounding deficit, AACS hurt itself by shooting just 4-for-15 at the foul line. Arlington Baptist was 13-for-19; five of those came in the final two minutes after AACS pulled within 58-50.
"We played as a team and ran more because it's such a bigger court here," Booker said.