Perry Hall rolls Gaithersburg for another 4A state boys’ basketball title shot; Bladensburg knocks out No. 8 Old Mill (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS/PRESS CONFERENCES HERE!)

Old Mill’s Avion Robinson (left), Mahzi Thames, Daevon Johnson and Hollique Johnson try to regroup during a timeout in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s Class 4A state boys’ basketball semifinals. The No. 8 Patriots were unable to overcome a double-digit deficit in the second half, falling to Prince George’s County’s Bladensburg at the University of Maryland.

by Derek Toney

Three years ago, Perry Hall High boys’ basketball team came to the University of Maryland in awe of its surprise run to the state Class 4A final four. Last year, the Gators returned to College Park on a mission for history.

In its latest trip to Xfinity Center, Perry Hall is just chilled. That may be understatement for the Gators, who are 32 minutes away from cementing their legacy.

No. 12 Perry Hall defeated Montgomery County’s Gaithersburg in a Class 4A state semifinal on Gary Williams Court. The defending state champs will play Prince George’s County’s Bladensburg in the finale of Championship Saturday at 8 p.m. at the University of Maryland.

Bladensburg dashed No. 8 Old Mill’s title aspirations with a 69-53 victory in the second 4A final four match. The Mustangs (15-12) will play for a state title for the first time in 40 years.

In their first state final four since 2010, the Patriots’ season came crashing down under the weight of offensive ineffectiveness and inability to stop Daniel Oladapo.

Olapado, a 6-foot-7 post, went for 27 points and 11 rebounds, 14 points in the final frame as the Mustangs pulled away. Oladapo was a tidy 14 of 19 from the free throw.

Old Mill (22-5) was 2-for-3. It was the main course of a frightening stat sheet Patriots coach Mike Francis glanced over in the postgame press conference.

“We wanted them to go to the basket and make it a play at the basket. If you sit back and shoot 3-point shots and jump shots, you’re not going to get fouls called,” said Francis. “We weren’t aggressive enough attacking the rim.”

The Millersville school shot just 24-of-66, including three-for-16 from behind the arc. Junior guard Avion Robinson led the Patriots with 21 points and four rebounds.

Trailing 12 points early in the third, the Anne Arundel County champ Patriots went on a 12-1 run, with Robinson hitting a short jumper to make it 36-35 with 3 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the quarter. Robinson dropped another jumper in the final seconds, bringing Old Mill within 42-39.

Oladapo took over, scoring inside to put the Mustangs up 44-39 going into the final frame. After the Patriots turned the ball over to start the quarter, Oladapo converted again in the paint and drilled a 3-pointer as Bladensburg ran off 13 straight for a 52-39 advantage.

The Mustangs, who surprised Eleanor Roosevelt in the South final Saturday, ballooned the lead to 20, moving in position for their first state title since 1973.

“Once we cut that to two and they went back up, we were in trouble,” said Francis. “We weren’t worried about being down 10 at the half. We have been in situations like that before. We just did not make shots.”

The Patriots won their second straight Anne Arundel crown and erased the disappointment of last year’s loss in the East Region semifinal. Old Mill returns three of its starters from Thursday among nine letter winners.

“We didn’t play tough enough tonight,” said Patriot junior guard Daevone Johnson, who scored 10 points. “I can wait til next year.”

It’s down to one game for Perry Hall, which easily disposed of Gaithersburg. Four players scored in double-figures with senior reserve Xavier Gravette posting 19 points and Tyler Holley added 17 points and five rebounds.

The Gators, boasting arguably the state’s best frontline in LaQuill Hardnett, Anthony Higgs and Anthony Walker, simply overwhelmed the Trojans on the boards (50-32 advantage). Hardnett, a 6-foot-9 point forward, who recently committed to Cincinnati, finished nine points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.

“We had to take care of business. We’re coming in here as a favorite for the first time,” said Perry Hall coach George Pantageou. “I’m proud we took care of business. We want one more really bad.”

“We knew we were the more dominant team,” said Holley. “Since we’re bigger than every team we played, we’ve been stressing this playoffs get the ball inside and attack the rim.”

Perry Hall (20-6) never trailed Thursday, building a 44-30 halftime advantage as Holley, who will play football for Morgan State in the fall, scored 13 points in the second. The Gators led by as many as 29 points in the second half.

“We know we can go out there and do what we have to do,” said Hardnett. “We’ve just got to go out there and play basketball.”

And have fun doing it. The Gators appeared to be too relaxed at times, doing playful things on the court.

During Thursday’s postgame press conference, Gravette pulled out a bag of Skittles to share with Diggs, Hardnett and Holley.

Perry Hall’s LaQuill Hardnett (left) and Tyler Holley surround Gaithersburg’s Jao Ituka during the first half of Thursday’s second Class 4A state boys’ basketball semifinal. The No. 12 Gators moved closer to a second straight title after an 85-62 rout of the Trojans at the Xfinity Center.

“Last year, we had a chip on our shoulder because we lost the year before,” said Hardnett. “We feel like we’re at home, like a second home, that’s why we’re so loose.”

The Gators, who played a daunting non-league schedule this season, are relaxed going into Saturday’s penultimate match. Perry Hall, which became the first Baltimore County since 1963 to win a title in the state’s largest classification, will attempt to become the first area program to win back-to-back 4A titles.

“It’s the second time going for history. We might as well do it again,” said Hardnett. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t.”

Class 4A state boys’ basketball semifinals

at University of Maryland

No. 12 Perry Hall 85, Gaithersburg 62

Gaithersburg – Graham 3, Neal 10, Tamakloe 2, Hawkins 14, Ituka 18, Middleton 3, Proctor 3, JOnes 3, Kouemi 4, Darego 2. Totals 24 7-11 62.

Perry Hall –  Hardnett 9, Walker 15, Holley 17, Higgs 15, Cloude 7, Gravette 19, Mickens 2, Adedire 1. Totals 33 15-23 85.

Gaithersburg 19 11 15 17 – 62

Perry Hall 22 22 21 20 – 85

Bladensburg 69, No. 8 Old Mill 53

Old Mill –  D. Johnson 10, H. Johnson 2, Savage 3, Robinson 21, Turner 4, Thames 8, Almaralis 3, Henry 2. Totals 24 2-3 53.

Bladensburg – Walker 9, Oladapo 27, Taylor 2, McAdoo 7, Williamson 15, Marbury 9. Totals 20 25-37 69.

Old Mill 16 7 16 14 – 53

Bladensburg 18 15 11 25 – 69