No. 9 Perry Hall put on a show Thursday night while moving one step closer to a second straight Class 4A boys basketball state championship.
The Gators overwhelmed Gaithersburg in the state semifinal at the Xfinity Center. Perry Hall presented a combination of size, speed, athleticism that gave the Trojans a puzzle they couldn’t solve as the Gators rolled to an 85-62 victory.
Perry Hall (20-6) will play Saturday at 8 p.m. against Bladensburg.
The Gators have won three straight Class 4A North Region championships and are just one win away from that second consecutive state title. Perry Hall beat Quince Orchard last year for the school’s first state title.
For Gaithersburg (20-6), this was the school’s first trip to the state final four in 20 years. This trip wasn’t fun for the Trojans, though, as Perry Hall simply had too much size, speed and quickness.
“Obviously, our size overwhelmed them,” Gators coach George Panageotou said. “We had to take care of business. [Now], we want one more really bad.”
Perry Hall was led by Laquill Hardnett (6 feet 9 senior), Anthony Walker (6-8 junior), Anthony Higgs (6-8 senior) and Tyler Holley (6-4 senior).
Hardnett did a little bit of everything with nine points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Walker had 15 points and six rebounds, while Higgs added 15 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Holley finished with 17 points and five rebounds.
Xavier Gravette, a 6-4 guard, added a team-high 19 points off the bench. Perry Hall had a 50-32 advantage in rebounds, which included 22 offensive boards and 59 points in the paint.
“We know we can go out there and do what we have to do,” said Hardnett, who has committed to Cincinnati. “We’ve just got to go out there and play basketball.”
Perry Hall scored the game’s first five points and never trailed. Gaithersburg stayed close early, cutting the lead to one a bunch of times, including 24-23 early in the second quarter.
That’s when Holley took charge. He made a layup, hit two free throws and added a three-point play. That was the start of a 10-point run that gave Perry Hall a 34-23 lead.
Holley kept going and made a layup just before halftime buzzer, putting the Gators up 44-30 at the break. In fact, Holley scored all 13 of his first-half points in that second quarter.
“The first quarter was really feeling them out,” Holley said. “The second quarter, we started stepping things up [on defense].”
What made things tougher for the Trojans were the times Perry Hall ramped up the defensive pressure. Perry Hall would double-team the ball or pressure it and the Gators' quickness threw the smaller Trojans off, helping create some of the team’s 14 turnovers.
The second half was more of the same. Gaithersburg found good shots but couldn’t make them while Perry Hall seemed to alternate between shots from far away or thunderous dunks while pulling away.
Jao Ituka led Gaithersburg with 18 points but the Trojans shot just 38 percent from the field and couldn’t keep up with the bigger, faster and stronger Gators, a team just one step away from a second straight state title.
G—Graham 3, Neal 10, Tamakloe 2, Hawkins 14, Ituka 18, Middleton 3, Proctor 3, JOnes 3, Kouemi 4, Darego 2. Totals: 24 7-11 62.
P—Hardnett 9, Walker 15, Holley 17, Higgs 15, Cloude 7, Gravette 19, Mickens 2, Adedire 1. Totals: 33 15-23 85. Half: P, 44-30.