Above: Perry Hall seniors (from left) Anthony Higgs, Laquill Hardnett and Tyler Holley will go down in history for their accomplishments with the Gators
Senior LaQuill Hardnett single-handedly erases 10-point second half deficit as No. 12 Perry Hall rallies for second consecutive 4A state boys’ basketball championship (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS/PRESS CONFERENCES HERE!)
by Gary Adornato & Derek Toney
The Perry Hall High boys’ basketball team is blessed with many diverse and talented weapons, but senior LaQuill Hardnett is, and always has been, the straw that stirs the Gators.
This fact was put on full display, Saturday night, at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center when the 6-foot-9 Hardnett, bound for the University of Cincinnati next year, scored 31 points to help 12th-ranked Perry Hall rally for a 56-52 victory over Bladensburg of Prince George’s County, in the Class 4A state title game, giving the Baltimore County squad back-to-back state crowns.
Thirteen of those points came in succession in a seven-minute stretch that spanned the end of the third quarter and into the fourth. Before Hardnett went on his spree, Perry Hall had fallen behind by 10 points and when he was done, the Gators had seized a 44-41 advantage.
Hardnett put his wide array of talents on display during the surge, creating off the dribble, slashing off of screens, and utilizing a soft touch to drain outside jumpers.
“Fourth quarter, LaQuill turned into the dog we know he can be and is often,” said Perry Hall coach George Panageotou, who coached with a heavy heart following the passing of his aunt one day earlier. “He carried us to the victory.”
Bladensburg’s Joshua Williamson ended the Hardnett run with a three-pointer to tie the game at 44, but consecutive baskets by Anthony Walker, Hardnett and Tyler Holley thrust Perry Hall in front, 50-44, and the Gators (21-6) held the Mustangs off down the stretch to extend their championship reign.
Hardnett scored 11 points in the first half, but the Gators were outscored 16-8 in the second quarter and trailed 28-22 at intermission. Williamson did most of the damage for the Mustangs in the second quarter as he hit a pair of three-pointers and scored 10 points in the stanza. Daniel Oladapo also had 10 first half points for Bladensburg (15-13), looking to complete a Cinderella-like run with its first state title since 1973.
Perry Hall scored the first four points of the third quarter, but then Bladensburg went on a 13-5 surge to grab a 41-31 lead, the biggest by either team on the night.
The final five points were the result of a technical foul called on Panageotou, whistled for arguing a traveling call. Oladapo hit a pair of technical free throws and Williamson converted the ensuing possession into a 3-point jumper.
With Panageotou visibly upset with the technical call, it was Hardnett who went over to his coach, flashed a broad grin and said, “I got this.”
He scored the final four points of third quarter and the first nine of the fourth and finished with 12 points in the final period. However, following his final score in the third quarter, he did get knocked to the floor and was down for a few minutes before getting assistance to the bench.
He later revealed he had twisted his neck in a collision and needed a few minutes to regroup. Hardnett returned to the lineup at the start of the fourth and further enhanced his legacy in Perry Hall basketball lore.
“It was like, I got to bring my team with me and go get it,” said Hardnett during the post-game press conference. “If I don’t go get it, who’s going to go get it? So, I had to pull them with me and I knew they were going to follow me as soon as I started.”
Hardnett also added 12 rebounds and two blocks. No other Gators scored double-digit points, but Holley scored eight, including five big points in the final 1:35 of regulation to help close out the victory.
Junior Anthony Walker added seven points and seven rebounds, while senior Anthony Higgs added six points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Oladapo led Bladensburg with 18 points and 14 rebounds and Williamson finished with 12 points.
Panageotou, now in his sixth year at his alma mater, has a special bond with his senior class, especially Hardnett, who has led the transformation of what once was a pedestrian program into a 4A powerhouse.
“It didn’t look good for us for a long time in this game and he’s (Hardnett) like, ‘I am not letting my team lose,’” said Panageotou. “He sparked it and everyone fed off of it.”
CLASS 4A BOYS BASKETBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
AT UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND
NO. 12 PERRY HALL 56, BLADENSBURG 52
BLADENSBURG 12 16 13 11 — 52
PERRY HALL 14 8 13 21 — 56
BLADENSBURG: Walker 8, Oladapo 18, McAdoo 4, Williamson 16, Marbury 6. TOTALS: 18 10-17 52.
PERRY HALL: Hardnett 31, Higgs 6, Holley 8, Walker 7, Johnson 4. TOTALS: 23 7-15 56.