Perry Hall holds off No. 7 Patterson at Eckert tourney; Gerstell drops Hammond (VIDEO HERE!!)

Hammond’s Kyree Purcell puts up a shot in the lane as Gerstell Academy’s Brad Witt defends during the opening game of the Bud Eckert Classic at Patterson Wednesday. The Falcons built a big lead before holding off the Bears in Baltimore City. (photo – Jimmy Fields Sr.)

Since winning the Class 4A state boys’ basketball title last March, Perry Hall coach George Panageotou has pointed to his team’s loss to Patterson as the turning point.

After the No. 6 Gators’ hard fought 61-58 win over the seventh-ranked Clippers Wednesday evening in the second game of the Bud Eckert Classic at Patterson, they’re hoping it’s the start of better things. Perry Hall will face Gerstell Academy in the tourney final Thursday evening at Patterson.

Gerstell defeated Hammond, 64-61, in the opening contest. Kyle Washington scored 13 points and Colin Rimel added 12 points, all in the opening quarter as the Falcons (3-8 overall) led 29-16.

Hammond battled back, closing to 62-61 on Robert Gordon’s free throws with 22.1 seconds remaining in regulation. Kyle Washington converted two free throws with 15.7 seconds to play, advancing Gerstell’s advantage to 64-61.

Hammond had an opportunity to tie, but Ahmad Harrison came from behind to steal the ball from Micah Henry and was fouled with 10.8 seconds left. The Howard County squad got another chance as Harrison missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Cameron Stallings’ 3-point attempt with seven seconds left hit off the back iron.

Gordon led all scorers with 29 points and Henry finished with 17. The Bears (3-3) will take on Patterson in the consolation game Thursday at 5 p.m.

After fading in the fourth quarter in its first two matches against VSN Top 10 squads, Perry Hall came up with the clutch plays to win the battle of reigning state champions. Senior point forward Laquill Hardnett had 18 points for the Gators (2-2), and Tyler Holley and University of Mississippi recruit Anthony Higgs each added 11.

The Gators overcame a seven-point halftime deficit, challenging the hot-shooting Clippers on the perimeter in the second half. Last year, Patterson defeated Perry Hall at the Dundalk Holiday Tournament in a match the Gators showed a lack of poise.

The Baltimore County school only lost one more decision – to Prince George’s County’s Largo on a half court shot at the buzzer – en route to its first state championship and final No. 1 ranking.

Gators coach George Panageotou said this season’s squad is still figuring things out.

“It’s not same as last year,” said Panageotou, whose team was the consensus No. 1 entering the season. “We had some issues especially in the first half, a guy makes a mistake and we having some bickering. We had to squash that at halftime. I’m proud of the effort in the second half.”

“We’ve learned through the past mistakes in the other games. This is only our fourth games of the season,” said Hardnett. “We weren’t really use to playing with each other yet, but we’re getting it together. We were composed in the fourth quarter.”

Trailing midway in the fourth, Perry Hall went back ahead, 55-53, on two free throws from Xavier Gravette with 2:22 left in regulation. Hardnett, a 6-foot-8 point forward fouled out with 1:52 remaining.

Gravette (six points), a Calvert Hall College transfer who will play football for Howard University next fall, came up with a steal, compliments of the Gators’ aggressive halfcourt defensive pursuit of Patterson. Gravette found Holley for a layup, extending Gators’ lead to 57-53 with 1:01 left.

Holley added four free throws in the final 20 seconds. After missing three of five, the Gators converted their final eight free throws.

“We looked unorganized in the first half, a lot of negatively,” said Holley, a 6-foot-4 do-it-all. “The message at halftime was sticking together, being positive and working together. In the second half, hopefully you saw what we can be.”

The Gators boast the area’s best frontline in Hardnett, Higgs (6-8) and 6-7 junior Anthony Walker. The Clippers were able to neutralized Perry Hall with torrid outside shooting in the first half.

The Clippers wiped out an early 8-0 deficit, dropping four 3-pointers in the second quarter. The reigning 2A state champs from Baltimore City closed the half with treys from and Gerard Mungo and Zaccheus Blackwell and a steal and layup from Tyone Thomas for a 36-29 halftime advantage.

The Kane Street school made only three field goals in the third quarter as Perry Hall controlled the boards. The Gators regained the lead, 42-40, on a follow-up from Walker late in the third.

Patterson led 53-52 after a basket from sophomore Issac James with 3:50 remaining. The Clippers didn’t convert another field goal until Mungo’s deep bomb went through the net before time expired.

Mungo, a junior, led the Clippers (2-2) with 18 points. Like Perry Hall, Patterson has played a handful games.

“Perry Hall is very talented with a lot of D-I players on their squad,” said Patterson coach Harry Martin. “We had a slip-up in the beginning [with a season-opening upset loss against Digital Harbor] with some roster issues, so I think this was our first real challenge to see where we were. So on Dec. 27, I have no problem where we are in [Baltimore] City and in Class 2A. I think we’ll battle every night and get a lot of wins.”

Hardnett said Wednesday was “a must-win” for Perry Hall, which lost to No. 1 Poly and No. 3 John Carroll School. The Gators’ maturation will rest largely on how the senior trio of Hardnett, Higgs and Holley bring along the new faces.

Xavier Gravette (left) was huge off the bench for Perry Hall while Tyler Holley and Laquill Hardnett combined for 27 points in the Gators’ victory over No. 7 Patterson in the nightcap. The defending Class 4A state champs and sixth-ranked Gators play Gerstell in the tournament final Thursday evening at 7 at Patterson.

“We can’t look to nobody else,” said Hardnett. “It’s on us.”

Bud Eckert Classic

at Patterson

Gerstell Academy 64, Hammond 61

Gerstell – Washington 13, Carpenter 11, Witt 7, Harrison 8, Booker 1, Tillery 11, Rimel 12. Totals 23 13-19 64.

Hammond – Evans 2, Henry 17, Stallings 8, Gordon 29, Bourne 3, Asa 2. Totals 23 8-11 61.

Gerstell 29 5 17 13 – 64

Hammond 16 13 17 15 – 61

No. 6 Perry Hall 61, No. 7 Patterson 58

Perry Hall – Cloude 4, Hardnett 18, Higgs 11, Walker 5, Johnson 6, Holley 11, Gravette 6. Totals 21 15-26 61.

Patterson – Jones 8, Mungo 18, Thomas 4, Blackwell 15, James 6, Thomas 4, Pitts 4, De La Cruz 3. Totals 21 7-8 58.

Perry Hall 16 13 13 19 – 61

Patterson 12 24 7 15 – 58