Cougars come up a little short in loss
PERRY HALL 59, QUINCE ORCH. 56 (OT)
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.”
Quince Orchard reached the state championship game despite not having a starter taller than 6-4.