With a little more than one minute left in Wednesday night’s game against host Patterson, the Perry Hall boys basketball team gave the Clippers a taste of their own medicine.
Protecting a two-point lead, they swarmed the basketball to get a big stop. An inside basket from Charles Mickens — off a swift pass from Xavier Gravette — followed and then Tyler Holley made four free throws down the stretch, When the game was finished, the No. 5 Gators had a 61-58 win over No. 8 Patterson to advance to Thursday’s championship game of the Eckert Winter Classic.
Perry Hall improves to 2-2 and will take on Gerstell Academy — a 64-61 winner over Hammond in the opening game — for the tournament title at 7 p.m. The host Clippers, also 2-2, will face Hammond at 5 p.m. in the consolation game.
Senior forward Laquill Hardnett scored 18 points to lead the Gators, who rallied from a 36-29 halftime deficit. At this time last year, Patterson beat Perry Hall at the Dundalk Holiday Tournament and then both teams went on to claim state titles — the Gators in Class 4A and Clippers in 2A. Avenging last year’s setback added to the win.
“This feels good,” Hardnett said. “They beat us a couple times, in the fall league, too, so this was our first time beating them and we wanted it bad, especially in their house. I like this.”
The Gators had a decided size advantage, but the Clippers’ quickness on defense and perimeter shooting led to the halftime advantage with guards Gerard Mungo (team-high 18 points) and Zach Blackwell (15 points) each hitting two 3s in the second quarter.
Perry Hall talked at halftime about making those shots tougher, and they did just that in the second half.
“Basically, we weren’t closing out [on defense],” said Hardnett, who fouled out with 1:52 to play. “We were giving them a lot of wide-open jumpers, so going into halftime we talked about it and coming out for the third we closed out and rebounded. That’s all we had to do.”
They limited Patterson to seven points in the third quarter to take a 44-43 lead into the fourth quarter and shot well at the end. Anthony Higgs hit a big 3 pointer from the left baseline with just under four minutes to play for a 52-51 lead, and then the Gators made seven of eight free throws to go with the big basket from Mickens.
Despite the setback, Patterson coach Harry Martin saw plenty of good things from his team.
“Perry Hall is very talented with a lot of D-I players on their squad,” he said “We had a slip-up in the beginning [with a season-opening upset loss against Digital Harbor] with some roster issues, so I think this was our first real challenge to see where we were. So on Dec. 27, I have no problem where we are in [Baltimore] City and in Class 2A. I think we’ll battle every night and get a lot of wins.”
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