With three sophomores and six juniors holding down key rolls, a young and rapidly developing Perry Hall boy’s basketball team had a coming out party Monday night at the Poly-Western Complex in Baltimore, as the visiting Gators stunned No. 3 Poly, 61-59, with a buzzer-beating hoop by sophomore forward Anthony Higgs.

After successfully defending Poly’s attempt at the game-winner with a blocked shot, Gator sophomore Laquill Hardnett ripped down a big rebound and Perry Hall (10-1) called timeout with 3.1 seconds left and the game knotted, 59-59. After the timeout, Reece Wiseman, an all-star quarterback on the Perry Hall football team, triggered the winning play with a baseball pass from the baseline that was completed to junior guard James Rider, 25-feet from the basket.

Rider took one dribble to his left before whipping the ball to Higgs on the left block. Higgs then laid the ball off the glass with his left hand, as the buzzer sounded, and the celebration was on.

The play has now delivered success for the Gators twice this season.

“We ran it one time earlier this season against Milford. We had six seconds left and it was a similar type play, but James Rider actually completed the bucket,” said Perry Hall coach George Panegeotou. “This time he gave the extra pass to Anthony Higgs, at the buzzer. I said that to the guys, if it’s not there, make the extra pass and that’s exactly what just happened.”

Rider, who scored 18 points to share game-high scoring honors with Hardnett, said the final play was a matter of trust.

“I trust my teammates. (Higgs) has proven himself multiple times,” said Rider. “That play, we’ve run a few times and I took the shots. I saw the basket, but I saw my teammate open and I trust him enough to make the layup.”

Higgs, who finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds, said he anticipated the pass coming his way.

“I knew he was going to make that pass. I knew he was struggling; he had a double-team on him and right away I knew he was going to make the pass,” said Higgs, who said he blacked out when the ball went through the hoop. “All I saw was my teammates.”

Perry, Poly’s junior star, had a difficult night offensively, scoring just 9 points and fouling out with 1 minute, three seconds to play. Sophomore Demetrius Mims, Jr. picked up some of the slack for the Engineers, scoring 14 points, but he also fouled out, with 3 minutes, 24 seconds to go.

Despite its offensive struggles, Poly (8-3) started the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run to build a 53-46 advantage, less than 3 minutes into the final period, for the biggest lead of the night by either team. Junior Deshaun Mosley, who led Poly with 15 points, hit a big 3-pointer in the surge.

Perry Hall ran off six consecutive points to pull within one and, after a Poly basket by John Dave Tinawin, Hardnett (12 points) scored on a put-back and sank the And One to tie the game at 55-55. There were two more ties before the decisive score by the Gators.

Laquill HardnettThe game was tight throughout. Perry Hall led by two at the end of one quarter and Poly held a 3-point advantage at the half. After three quarters, the game was tied, 44-44.

Hardnett had a sensational effort, battling inside with Poly’s twin towers of Perry and Tinawin, scoring his 18 points and pullin 5 rebounds off the glass. Hardnett was especially tough in the fourth quarter, where he scored 8 points.

“Coming into the game, we knew they were just as big as us and just as athletic, so we worked in practice on boxing out all day,” said Hardnett. “Our coach knew that was going to be our advantage or our disadvantage, make us or break us. We came in with that attitude that we had to box out to win.”

According to Hardnett, the Gators also planned to attack Poly on the interior, which turned out to be a key factor as the Engineers struggled with foul trouble starting in the second quarter.

“We knew their guards could not stay with our guards,” added Hardnett. “We could beat them and drop it off when we wanted to, so that was the game plan.”

In addition to his game-winning assist, Rider was the glue that held Perry Hall together throughout. He scored 8 points in the opening quarter, including consecutive 3-pointers which provided the first big spark of confidence for the Gators. He added 5 points in the second quarter and 5 more in the fourth, including a free throw which tied the game at 59-59, with 12.1 seconds to play.

Panageotou said he wanted his team to understand that they were playing in a big game and to benefit from the experience.

“We just wanted to be aggressive. As young as my team is, we didn’t hide the fact that it was a big game and that it would be a different atmosphere,” said Panageotou. “We weren’t trying to scoot around that. We just wanted to play hard and match any intensity they had and we were able to do that.

“It’s a really good preparation when we start regionals later in the season, to see a top tier team like this. It was a great test for us and we were able to squeak it out.”

NO. 19 PERRY HALL 61, NO. 3 POLY 59
PH      16  11  17  17  —  61
POLY 14  16  14  15  —  59
Higgs 15, Rider 18, Hardnett 18, Butler 1, Green 4, Holley 5. TOTALS: 16 25-37 61.
Tinawin 12, Mims 14, Tate 4, Perry 9, Mosley 15, Chong-Qui 5. TOTALS: 20 14-25 59.