It seems that the more things change around the county's 4A boys basketball race, the more they stay the same.
That often misinterpreted cliche was driven home hard Friday in a clash between perennial 4Apowers Annapolis and Meade.
Annapolis entered the game desperately seeking a win to ease the pain from losses last week to Old Mill, 68-62, and Dunbar, 80-61.
Meade, on the other hand, took its home court hoping the Panthers would be looking ahead to Tuesday's matchup with Broadneck, and afford the Mustangs the opportunity to avenge a 96-59 season-opening loss to Annapolis.
On the surface, the odds seemed to stack up in the favor of the homestanding Mustangs, but those who spend free time around Anne Arundel's public school hardwood surfaces, like Broadneck coach Ken Kazmarek, know that the Panthers should never be counted out, norviewed as an underdog.
"You can never count out Annapolis," Kazmarek said earlier in the week. "Once Annapolis sets its sights, they are pretty effective at accomplishing their goals."
In the end, thePanthers were "pretty effective" Friday night as they hung on in thewaning moments to secure a 62-58 victory over the much-improved Mustangs.
"We weren't surprised at all by how much they (Meade) had improved," said Annapolis coach John Brady. "We knew they wouldn't be the same team that we saw in the opener, and they certainly weren't."
Both teams worked hard in the first quarter in getting back on defense to deter the fast break, and both did so with a high degree of efficiency. Meade center Brian Parker kept the Panthers honest in thepaint in the early going as he blocked three shots. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound center's aggressiveness proved costly however, as he picked up two first-quarter fouls and became a non-factor.
"It (the two personal fouls) just took him right out of the game," said Meade coach Butch Young. "He couldn't do anything."
Meade managed to take a not-so-commanding 13-11 first-quarter lead, thanks to two follow-up shots by Lance Taylor who finished the game as co-leading scorer with 19points.
Annapolis fell behind, 20-16, early in the second quarter, but pulled back to within a point following a three-pointer by junior Robert Wooster that would have passed even NBA standards.
The two teams exchanged the lead four times before the intermission beforeAnnapolis' Richard Naylor netted eight of the Panthers' 18 second-quarter points and finished the game with 10. Annapolis headed to the locker room at the half leading, 29-25.
The Panthers managed to muster up some transition in the second half and quickly raced out frontof the Mustangs. Annapolis went on an 11-4 run to start the third quarter and by quarter's end held a 46-35 advantage.
Meade's attemptat a full-court press in the fourth quarter initially stifled the Panthers, and in sensing the confusion Brady opted to use one of his timeouts with 6 minutes, 20 seconds remaining. The Mustangs made a run at Annapolis in the waning minutes, but were turned away by Wooster who nailed two three-pointers and drove to the bucket twice for easy scores. Wooster tallied 19 points on the day.
Annapolis' Dennis Edwards, the county's leading scorer, was humbled by the Mustangs and had to settle for a mere 10 points.