After tight team defense helped the first half end in a 23-all deadlock, Gilman leaned on senior stars Cyrus Jones and Ryan Ripken for its offensive in the second half of a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland B Conference semifinal Friday night in Roland Park.
The prolific tandem was up to the task, combining for 50 points in the top seed's solid 67-59 victory over Annapolis Area Christian School at the Finney Athletic Center.
The victory advances the Greyhounds to the conference championship game against St. Vincent Pallotti on Sunday at UMBC at 1 p.m.
"We told the kids that if you make it happen on defense, it takes the stress off the offense," Gilman coach Owen Daly said.
After the Eagles grabbed a 25-23 advantage to open the third quarter on a Taylor Leabhart basket, Ripken gave Gilman the lead for good on a stick-back and a three-pointer from the top of the key.
The 6-foot-6 South Carolina baseball recruit would score three more field goals in the period and Jones — now the all-time leading scorer (1,712 points) in program history after supplanting former Morgan State star Jimmy Fields — put in his own miss at the buzzer to give the Greyhounds a 40-33 bulge heading into the final quarter.
When Ripken drove for another basket in the beginning of the fourth quarter to stretch the lead, Gilman was in a commanding position to reach the final.
"We were kind of cold (shooting the ball) in the first half," he said. "So I was trying to be more aggressive by attacking the basket (in the second half)."
Ripken noted that Gilman and Pallotti split their regular season encounters and that it gained the top seed by virtue of a coin flip.
AACS (59)-Connor Lipinski, 13; Miles Meadows, 9; Matt O'Neil, 3; Emmanuel Toney, 6; Austin Nwosu, 4; Taylor Leabhart, 20; Garry Crouell, 4.
Gilman (67)-Kareem Montgomery, 2; Cory Watson, 4; Jake Matthai, 2; Ben Grace, 7; Cyrus Jones, 27; William McBride, 2; Ryan Ripken, 23.