Perry Hall survives another close call as it marches on in defense of its 4A state title

Senior guard Tyler Holley provided the glue on both ends of the court that helped Perry Hall survive and advance at Dulaney.

by Gary Adornato

Needing a buzzer beater to slip past Mervo in its sectional semifinal playoff game, on Monday, defending 4A state champ Perry Hall survived another close call on Wednesday at arch-rival Dulaney, pulling out a 64-63 win in the 4A North Region Section I final.

Junior Anthony Walker sank a pair of free throws with 7.6 seconds left, extending Perry Hall’s lead to three, and the Gators walked off with the victory when the clock expired after Dulaney scored a two-point layup instead of attempting a potential game-tying three-point shot.

Perry Hall (19-6) now advances to the 4A North final and will travel to Paint Branch on Friday evening, looking to claim its third straight trip to the state final four.

On the final play, Dulaney freshman Ryan Conway drove up the right side and fired the ball into the paint to junior Cameron Amoruso. With a wide open lane to the goal, Amoruso drove for an uncontested layup instead of dribbling or passing outside the three-point arc. With the clock under five seconds when the goal was scored, time expired without Perry Hall having to attempt an in-bounds pass.

Dulaney coach Matt Lochte did not point to the final play as the point that cost Dulaney the game. He felt it came down to free throw shooting, or lack there of.

“It didn’t come down to one play. It didn’t come down to two plays,” said Lochte. “We played hard. I couldn’t be more proud of how hard we played. We just needed to be a little more efficient at times. They are so big and so long; they are so seasoned, experience. You have so little room for error and we were 16-for-27 from the free throw line. When you play a team of Perry Hall’s caliber, you can’t leave that many out there. We left 11 out there.”

Playing before a packed house that was filled 45 minutes prior to the opening tip, the atmosphere was electric. Perry Hall led most of the way, but the Lions were nipping at the Gators’ heels at every step.

Perry Hall led by one at the half, but Dulaney (18-6) claimed its first lead of the night, at 29-27, on a three point jumper by senior Josh Cornish, who scored 19 points in the loss. The game was tied three times over the next several minutes, before Perry Hall took a 33-31 lead on a basket by senior Tyler Holley, with 5:21 left in the third quarter.

Perry Hall coach George Panageotou gave Holley credit for being the glue that held the Gators together.

“I love this kid,” said Panageotou. “I love this kid. He’s going to do whatever it takes to help us secure wins. If it is scoring, rebounding, passing, hitting free throws, defending, it is just unbelievable. He has no regard for his body. He is part of the up coming of Perry Hall and what we have done the last three years.”

Paced by 10 third quarter points by senior Laquill Hardnett, Perry Hall led by as many as seven points, on three different occasions in the third quarter, before a long three by Josh Cornish brought the Lions within 45-41 after three quarters.

With 7:07 left in the game, Dulaney took its final lead of the night, at 46-45 on a bucket by Che Evans, Jr., but Perry Hall responded with a 10-2 run, fueled by five points from Holley. As the game wound under two minutes, Perry Hall seemed in control with a 61-54 advantage, despite the fact that Hardnett fouled out with 2:24 to play. Two long-range threes by Cornish, however, allowed Dulaney to rally back within one, before Walker’s clutch free throws.

Walker, who scored 10 points in the game, scored Perry Hall’s first eight markers of the night, including a thunderous two-handed jam, with a foul and an and one, to give the Gators an early 8-2 lead. Dulaney battled back within one, but Perry Hall closed the opening frame on a 10-3 surge to build an 18-10 lead.

The Lions, however, scored the first seven points of the second quarter to close back within one. Dulaney never tied the game in the first half, but stayed tight, as the Gators went to the intermission clinging to a 27-26 advantage.

Before fouling out, Hardnett scored a team-high 16 points. Anthony Higgs added 15 and Holley finished with 10.

Playing well beyond his years, Conway scored 22 points for Dulaney to compliment Cornish’s efforts.

Cornish, who transferred in last summer from Calvert Hall to play alongside his younger brother Isaiah, who started for the Lions as a freshman, found a quick home at Dulaney.

“This is my family,” said Cornish, who will play at Southern Utah next year. “It will be for the rest of my life. I will stay in contact and watch their games next year. That game was crazy at the end. We were just trying to get open, hit a shot and stay in the game. I love all of them.”

Lochte expressed that the feeling was more than mutual and, after rattling off a long list of former Lion greats, said, “Josh Cornish is as good as any leader I have ever coached. We have only been together for a few months, our relationship, from day one, has grown and grown. I couldn’t be more proud of Josh and his accomplishments.”

Holley believes the Gators have what it takes to defend their state title.

“At this point point, I think we have come together as a team,” said Holley. “We’ve had a tough schedule, one of the toughest ones, and I think it built us and made us ready for what is coming now. We’ve got momentum on our side and I don’t think anybody can stop us in states.”

PH 18 9 18 19 — 64
DUL 10 16 15 22 — 63
PERRY HALL: DJ Cloude 2, Laquill Hardnet 16, Xavier Gravette 2, Anthony Walker 10, Terence Johnson 6, Tyler Holley 10, Sincere Cowan 3, Anthony Higgs 15. TOTALS: 24 14-33 64.
DULANEY: Ryan Conway 22, Che Evans 9, Isaiah Cornish 6, Cameron Amoruso 5, Josh Cornish 19, Cole McGee 2. TOTALS: 20 16-27 63.