Freshman guard comes up big; No. 15 Panthers outlast Meade in OT (VIDEO HERE!!)

by Donald Daniels

Bryon Ireland grew up Wednesday evening. With Annapolis High in another tense battle with Meade, the freshman was the difference as the 15th-ranked Panthers escaped with a 68-62 overtime victory over the Mustangs in an Anne Arundel County boys’ basketball contest in Fort Meade.

Ireland posted six of his nine points in the overtime as the Panthers (6-1 overall) remain undefeated (4-0) in league play. Annapolis defeated Meade in last season’s Class 4A East Region final.

After leading for the first three quarters, Annapolis saw their lead disappear with 56 seconds left in regulation when Esmond Williams nailed a three-pointer, giving the Mustangs a 56-55 lead. Senior Xavier Green converted one of two free throws for Meade, tying the game with 12.9 seconds left.

Meade (5-3, 1-2 Anne Arundel) got the ball into hands of guard Kahleem Jennings, who had a team-high 18 points, who drove the ball into the lane but was called for a travelling violation with seven seconds left. Meade’s defense clamped down on Annapolis which forced a long contested three-point attempt that hit the backboard and forced overtime.

“It was very intense out there,” Green said. “We kind of underestimated them in the second half and no team should do that.”

Williams got Meade the lead on an 18-foot jumper from the right side, then Ireland started to take over. Two possessions later Ireland was fouled on the perimeter and connected on two free throws to tie the game once again. Annapolis to reclaim the lead on Green’s layup.

“They did a good job handling Chris, and we did not have a good shooting night in general,” Annapolis coach Dan Smalley said. “Meade is always a good team, and Meade and Annapolis has been a common theme the past few years.”

Anthony May was fouled on a put back attempt after a missed shot, but went 1-for-2 from the free throw line, leaving the Mustangs down with just over three minutes left.

With the Mustangs blanketing Annapolis’ best player in senior Chris Jones, the Panthers worked the ball around the perimeter and found Ireland, who drilled a three-pointer, giving the Panthers a four-point advantage.

“It was kind of hard, but…,” Ireland said, “I was kind of nervous about that shot, but it went in.”

Meade struggled offensively in the final minutes as Ireland hauled in two rebounds and came up with a steal and added another made free throw to end the Mustang threat.

Annapolis took the early lead with Anthony Davidson leading the way scoring nine of his 13 points in the first quarter and Panthers led 18-13 at the end of the first quarter.

“It was a good win with guys making big shots that don’t normally do so,” Smalley said. “It really is not a surprise, though. They are good players and we have a good bench. They are an example of that. All their points were needed tonight.”

Both teams came out red hot to start the second quarter. Jennings, May and Williams connected on the first three field goal attempts, but Green answered every Mustang score with a basket of his own in the paint and scored six quick points. Meade cooled off a bit, but Annapolis remained on a scoring tear by connecting on 10 of 13 shots from field and carried a 13 point-lead into halftime.

The Mustangs started to claw back in the third. Jones, who had a team-high 18 points, kept the Panthers afloat with six points at the end of quarter as the Panthers held a double-digit lead.

“We have been a good defensive team all season,” Meade coach Pete Corriero said. “Early on, I don’t know what it was, but we gave up a lot of baskets. Our defense has been our bread and butter, but that first half, it was all butter. They went right through us. That is a big hole to dig, especially when we are not a high-scoring team.”

The Panthers’ offense couldn’t get into a rhythm as they had five turnovers in a four-minute scoreless stretch to start the fourth. The struggles allowed for Meade to go on a 7-1 run to close gap down the stretch.

“Everyone is growing into their roles,” Corriero said. “We are senior-heavy, but guys are playing a lot of new roles.”

No. 15 Annapolis 68, Meade 62

Annapolis 18 23 8 7 12 – 68

Meade 13 15 14 14 6 – 62