St. Mary's boys basketball coach Roger Reed had the question answered before it was completely asked as to what it would take to get past No. 12 St. Paul's in last night's Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference championship game at Villa Julie College.
"Defense, defense, defense," he said, over and over.
How's this for buckling down: no field goals for the regular-season champion Crusaders in the final quarter.
A strong rebound and finish from St. Mary's senior center Jeff Postell with 16 seconds left gave the Saints the lead for good in a 44-41 win that avenged two regular-season losses to St. Paul's and provided the Annapolis school with its first tournament championship.
Senior guard Marcus Perry led the way with 16 points, and Postell added 13 points and 11 rebounds - none bigger than the follow with 16 seconds left.
"We just played our hearts out and did whatever it took to win. All season long, there were no attitudes - just basketball," said Postell. "Coach [Reed] told me to go strong. This was our first time in the championship game, so it's quite an accomplishment."
Defending champ St. Paul's (22-5) took a 37-35 lead into the fourth quarter, but after Postell hit a short baseline jumper to give the Saints (24-7) a 39-38 lead with 5:22 left, the latter was content on spreading the floor .
It worked, but the Crusaders had chances in the final seconds. After senior center Holden Plack (game-high 18 points) hit one free throw to cut the lead to 42-41 with seven seconds left, the Crusaders got the ball back but missed on a baseline jumper from Shel Simon and Plack's follow was also off the mark.
St. Mary's guard Mike Zurfluh closed out the win with two free throws in the last second.