It was hard to imagine the Meade boys basketball team playing any better than it did during a regular season in which it won a program-best 20 games.
But the No. 12 Mustangs managed do just that, finding a higher gear in the playoffs and saving their best for last in Saturday's Class 4A state championship game against Bethesda-Chevy Chase. Already enjoying a double-digit advantage at the half, Meade scored the first 10 points in a dominant third quarter that led to a convincing 80-45 win at Xfinity Center.
A dozen players scored as the Mustangs (26-2) claimed the program's first state championship. It also was Anne Arundel County's first state title since Annapolis won in 1990. Josh Qualls led Meade with 16 points, and Bruce Spruell added 10l.
"We played great basketball this week," Meade coach Pete Corriero said. "Our county doesn't get a whole lot of respect for basketball, but we played against some great players this year and some really hard teams in our county. Playing Annapolis, playing Old Mill, playing Glen Burnie — those are rival games, and that really prepared us here."
It was a good week for Meade. On Monday, the Mustangs captured the East region crown with an 84-68 win against defending region champion North Point. On Thursday, they soundly defeated Springbrook, 81-47, to reach Saturday's title game.
Leading 32-20 at the half, Meade went on a 10-0 run, with Qualls' three-point play the big difference in helping to build a44-20 lead over the Barons (21-6).
Meade had picked up right where it left off in Thursday's semifinal win over Springbrook, taking a 14-5 lead after one quarter that increased to 32-20 at the break. Balance and aggressive offense defined the Mustangs' first half, in which they got points from eight players and made 15 of 21 free throws. The Mustangs got to the line 53 times overall, making 38 free throws.
"It's amazing. This team really deserves it," said team captain Tristan Easton, who had nine points. "We gave our all the whole season and throughout we sacrificed so much ... we just shut a lot out and came out here and got a win."
The game's start was delayed more than 30 minutes after the national-anthem singer collapsed on the court. He was treated on the court and taken by ambulance to a local hospital.