Few teams in Maryland have advanced to the state basketball semifinals as many times as Springbrook. In Friday's Class 4A North final, the Blue Devils made the 45-mile journey to Perry Hall in search of their 20th trip to College Park.
Following an epic battle, however, it will instead be the Gators making their first trip to Xfinity Center.
After seeing its 10-point, fourth-quarter lead evaporate, No. 15 Perry Hall pulled ahead on Darrell Green's layup with four seconds left. Darren Galvin's potential tying layup then rolled off the rim as time expired, preserving the Gators' 62-60 win.
"We didn't hide the fact that we wanted to put that first banner up," Gators coach George Panageotou said. "It was about the 13 guys on this team getting a chance to compete. We knew we had a special team."
Perry Hall (21-3) now advances to the Class 4A state semifinals, where it will face Eleanor Roosevelt, a double-overtime winner over Bladensburg in the 4A South region, Thursday at 7 p.m. in College Park.
Sophomore La'Quill Hardnett scored 19 points and junior Anthony Higgs added 17 for the Gators, who played well defensively to hold Falu Seck to 16 points after Springbrook's standout guard scored 47 points Wednesday against Howard.
Despite making just two of 12 3-pointers and 11 of 19 foul shots, Perry Hall won with its size advantage up front, often scoring on second- and third-chance opportunities.
"We had never seen them before, and everybody was talking about how they were going to get us," Hardnett said. "So we had to come out here and show them what Perry Hall is all about."
The Gators took command of the game with an early 14-0 run, and led by double digits much of the way. When Hardnett, a key player in their press break, quickly picked up his third and then fourth fouls early in the fourth quarter, however, that lead began to wither away.
"We got our feet under us and were playing really well," Panageotou said. "When they cut it down to one, we told them in the timeout, 'We just took their best shot. Now it's our turn.'"
Off the timeout, Higgs quickly re-established the lead with a three-point play off a putback. Then, after Marcus Boyd's reverse layup cut the lead to two, Hardnett answered with a layup at the other end.
Boyd tied the game for Springbrook (15-11) on a follow-up with 17 seconds left, setting the stage for Green's game-winner.
"I knew that we were a good team from the start," Higgs said. "We have a level of dedication needed to go do it all."
"This was my goal from the beginning of the season," Hardnett said. "And we've accomplished it now. Time to move on to [Xfinity]."
Springbrook started quickly in this one, with Seck scoring each of his team's first seven points. A Seck 3-pointer put the Blue Devils up, 11-7.
It didn't take long, however, for Perry Hall to storm back, with Higgs' layup starting a 14-0 run. Hardnett's three-point play put the Gators ahead, 14-11, to end the first quarter, and Reece Wiseman's 3-pointer from the corner then pushed the lead to six to start the second.
By the time Hardnett grabbed the rebound off his own missed foul shot and put it back in, Perry Hall led, 21-11.
Still down by eight late in the half, however, the Blue Devils got back into it, with Galvin stealing an errant pass in the backcourt, hitting a layup and completing a three-point play to cut the lead to five at the break.
4A North final
Perry Hall 62, Springbrook 60
Springbrook – Galvin 13, Seck 16, Cross 4, Henderson 1, Branch 3, Dyson 6, Flood 4, Boyd 13. Totals: 22 11-14 60.
Perry Hall – Hardnett 19, McCallum 2, Brown 6, Butler 2, Wiseman 9, Holley 2, Green 5, Higgs 17. Totals: 23 11-19 62.
Half: :Perry Hall, 33-28.