For the longest time, it did not appear to be a good night for the Annapolis Area Christian boys basketball team, as it battled defending MIAA B Conference champion St. Paul’s in Brooklandville on Wednesday, in a semifinal playoff.

The Eagle offense had no flow, shots were not falling and the host Crusaders were holding a nine point lead midway through the third quarter.  Slowly, however, the tide turned and AACS rallied for a surprising 46-44 victory over the Crusaders, claiming a spot in the B Conference championship game.  The Eagles will face top-seeded Glenelg Country, which advanced to the final with a 74-53 win over St. Vincent Pallotti, also on Wednesday, next Tuesday at Gilman (7:00 p.m.).

Senior guard Phillip Perry shook off a scoreless first half to score 13 second half points, including ten in the fourth period to lead the comeback.  In fact, it was Perry’s basket, with just 1.2 seconds remaining that broke a 44-44 tie and provided AACS with its margin of victory.

“Our offense wasn’t clicking in the first half.  We had a few big shots, but I think the run going into the second half really sparked us and we just used our momentum from there,” said Perry.

With his team railing 33-26 with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, Perry collected his first points of the night with a three, pulling the Eagles within four heading into the final quarter.  He was just getting started.

As the clock wound under six minutes to play in the final quarter, St. Paul’s led by six.  Perry cut the deficit in half with a another three ball and then tied it, at 37-37, with a third three-pointer with 5:03 remaining.

Tony Williams St. Paul’s back in front, but AACS evened it with a two-handed slam by Austin Nwosu.  Cliff Cornish, who had a big night for St. Paul’s (14 points), hit a pair of free throws to give the Crusaders a 41-39 advantage, but Nwoso countered again for the Eagles to tie the contest at 41, before teammate Conner Lipinski took a steal coast-to-coast and converted a three-point play to push the Eagles in front 44-41.

Nigel Sydnor, who scored 11 points for St. Paul’s, evened things at 44-44 by converting 3-of-4 free throw attempts in successive possessions, setting the stage for Perry’s game-winning score.  After an AACS timeout, the Eagles inbounded the ball with 14.4 seconds to play.  Lipinski fed Perry on the right block and the smooth senior gracefully banked home a right-handed layup to break the tie.  St. Paul’s got one final look at the basket, but a jumper from the right corner by Tanner Brooks glanced off the rim.

“We build our energy off each other and we just went out there and played our game,” said Nwosu, who finished with 10 points..  “Our shots just weren’t falling in the first half and there wasn’t much we could do about it.  Later on, in the second half, we started hitting our shots.”

“We feel very blessed,” said AACS coach Doug Scheidt on his team’s ability to reach its first B Conference final.  “It was an ugly game.  St. Paul’s plays such good basketball and plays such hard defense, it’s hard to come through.

“I was real proud of the guys.  I felt like they fought through a pretty ugly game,” added Scheidt.  “We couldn’t get our offense going so we had to dig deep and somehow we came back.  We just hung around and ended up pulling it off at the end.  We feel very fortunate.”

St. Paul’s coach Seth Goldberg, who saw his team come up short in its quest for a second straight B Conference crown, was proud of his squad’s effort.

“Give our guys a lot of credit.  We fought to the end.  We had our chances.  Annapolis Area Christian, they are a good team and they made plays at the end of the game,” said Goldberg.  “It’s been fantastic.  Twenty win season this year.  That says a lot about the kids we have.  It’s been a great year.”

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Annapolis Area Christian 46, St. Paul’s 44
St. Paul’s
AACS: Lipinski 8, Perry 13, Lewis 2, Nwosu 10, Toney 4, yates 9.
St. Paul’s: Sydnor 11, Davis 2, Wade 9, Hamer 4, Williams 2, Cornish 14, Tucker 2.