Cougars come up a lit­tle short in loss

PERRY HALL 59, QUINCE ORCH. 56 (OT)

The Washington Post Sunday - - ALLMETSPORTS.COM - BY JESSE DOUGHERTY jesse.dougherty@wash­post.com

Spent and sweat­ing through their white uni­forms, the Quince Or­chard boys’ bas­ket­ball play­ers am­bled to­ward the bench as the Perry Hall play­ers leapt on each other in joy.

The No. 18 Cougars fell, 59-56, in over­time of Mary­land’s 4A boys’ state cham­pi­onship game at Xfin­ity Cen­ter on Satur­day night. Quince Or­chard, with no starter stand­ing taller than 6 feet 4, went toe-to-toe with the Ga­tors, led by the 6-9 La Quill Hard­nett and 6-8 An­thony Higgs.

The Cougars were led by 5-10 guard Matt Kelly, who fin­ished with a game-high 22 points.

“You look at both ends of the court be­fore the game, and if you say, ‘That team is go­ing to get smoked,’ you’re usu­ally talk­ing about us,” Quince Or­chard Coach Paul Foringer said be­fore the game. “But we don’t. We just play good bas­ket­ball and never change.”

Be­fore hav­ing any shot at the cham­pi­onship, Quince Or­chard (24-3) had to get through then un­de­feated and top-ranked Wise in Thurs­day’s semi­fi­nals. The Pu­mas were un­beaten in 21 games.

Quince Or­chard slowed down the tempo, worked for wide-open looks and me­thod­i­cally crept ahead. A Colin Crews cor­ner three pushed the Cougars over the line.

Quince Or­chard brought the same de­lib­er­ate ap­proach — mov­ing the ball in search of the per­fect shot — against Perry Hall (26-2).

It re­sulted in an 8-6 Cougars lead at the end of the first quar­ter, with Kelly hit­ting two early three-point­ers and Perry Hall strug­gling to find any rhythm of­fen­sively.

That changed in the sec­ond quar­ter. Guard Tyler Hol­ley, who led Perry Hall with 20 points off the bench in the semi­fi­nals, started at­tack­ing the bas­ket with aban­don. Hol­ley scored eight points in the quar­ter and the Ga­tors car­ried a seven-point lead into half­time.

The Cougars kept pace in the third be­fore fall­ing be­hind by seven at the start of the fourth quar­ter. But Kelly, who net­ted eight points in the third quar­ter, re­sponded with three straight buck­ets to make it a one-pos­ses­sion game. Three min­utes later, Dorsey tied it with a hook shot off the glass, and Perry Hall called a time­out to set­tle things down.

Quince Or­chard drained a minute with its ball move­ment, then after be­ing fouled, Kelly found him­self at the free throw line with a chance to nudge his team ahead. He made the first, ex­hal­ing hard after it rolled through the rim. Then he made the sec­ond.

But the Cougars’ lead was short-lived. Hard­nett banked in a floater for Perry Hall in the fi­nal sec­onds to tie the game at 48 and boil the en­tire sea­son into a four-minute over­time.

In the ex­tra pe­riod, Perry Hall built a four-point lead be­fore Quince Or­chard for­ward Johnny Fier­stein banked in a three to slice the deficit to one. But the Ga­tors had just a bit more en­ergy left at the fin­ish, and a steal at mid­court sent them into a dog pile across from the Cougars’ bench.

“It was a great game, a great game,” Foringer, who lost his voice in the sec­ond quar­ter, whis­pered after the game. “That game kind of hinged on one play here or there, you just had to make one play. And they just made more than we did in the end. That was it.”

After the buzzer sounded, Quince Or­chard’s play­ers found them­selves just short of a per­fect end­ing.

“We’ll look back and re­flect and it will be a great sea­son in the end,” said Fier­stein, who scored 11 points. “But right now we’re just re­ally dis­ap­pointed we didn’t get the last win.”

JONATHAN NEW­TON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Quince Or­chard reached the state cham­pi­onship game de­spite not hav­ing a starter taller than 6-4.

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