Trailing by as many as 12 points in the first quarter, the Glenelg boys basketball team had a decision to make.  It could either fold under the pressure of facing Gwynn Park, last season’s Class 2A state runner-up, or it could fight on its home court.

The Gladiators chose the latter.  The Howard County upstart, behind junior Joe Tolbert, managed to take a four point lead in the third quarter.

But in the end, the Yellow Jackets of Prince George’s County were too athletic and too experienced.  The visitors ended Glenelg’s season with a 76-62 victory in the 2A South Regional semifinals on Wednesday night.

“Getting behind in the first quarter really hurt us but they stayed mentally tough and came back,” said Glenelg coach Jansen McMillian.  “We were down by three at halftime and took the lead by four in the third quarter but it just didn’t go our way.”

With his team trailing 28-18 early in the second period, McMillian went too his bench and put seldom used guard Joe Tolbert into the game.  The junior responded with four straight buckets to spark the Gladiators.

Tolbert stripped a Gwynn Park player and took it in for a layup. Then he nailed two free-throws, hit a mid-range jumper and finished his run with a three-pointer.  He had 11 points in the quarter and finished with a career-high 14 points.

“You never know when you’re going to get your chance, so you just have to go out and show what you can do when coach calls your name,” Tolbert said.  “The team needed a spark, so I just told myself that I was going to go out there and do what I could to help and just play basketball.”

Senior guard Shane Kellaher led the Gladiators with 18 points and classmate Troy Spurrier added 15 more. Senior guard Daniel Henry led all scorers with 20 points, while Brandon Ford had 18 and Tion Barnes contributed 16 for Gwynn Park (16-8).

Two minutes into the third quarter, Glenelg trailed 38-35 and refused to go away.

Spurrier finished inside and drew the foul. After making the free-throw, the Gladiators drew even. A minute later, Spurrier scored on a put-back at the rim and gave his team its first lead of the game at 40-38.

With 2:51 left in the quarter, Tolbert grabbed an offensive rebound, laid it up and was fouled. He finished off the three-point play, giving Glenelg a four point advantage, 45-41.

“We played our hearts out,” said Kellaher, who is looking to play basketball at Marywood University.  “We struggled shooting tonight but we did our best. It was a 100-percent effort.”

Gwynn Park recovered, scoring nine of the next 11 points to regain the lead and never looked back. The Yellow Jackets attacked the rim and made their free-throws down the stretch to advance to the regional finals.

“The shots didn’t fall when we needed them,” said McMillian.  “They have been working hard. Most of the guys have been staying after practice for 45 minutes and waking up early in the morning to shoot.  They wanted to win and wanted to do well but sometimes the ball falls and sometimes it doesn’t.”

Glenelg (16-8) was the second seed in the region and finished in second place in Howard County league play after winning just seven games a year ago.

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Gwynn Park 76, Glenelg 62
  1 2 3 4 F
Gwynn Park 25 9 16 26 76
Glenelg 14 17 16 15 62
Gwynn Park:
Barnes 16, Ford 18, Henry 20, Walton 4, Hall 13, Hawkins 2, Johnson 1, Grant 2. Totals 27 19-26 76.
Glenelg:
Kellaher 18, Griffin 3, Siegfried 3, Spurrier 15, Mullinix 2, True 5, Tolbert 14, Hyer 2.Totals 22 15-18 62.