With his jersey clutched in his right hand, Meade guard David Beck glanced down at his bare chest Friday night and joked that God didn't give him a basketball body.
That's OK. He gave him a heck of a shooting eye instead.
Beck hit his last 11 shots and scored 26 of his game-high 31 points in the second half to rally the host Mustangs to a 71-68 victory over Old Mill in a 4A League Friendship Division game.
The 6-foot-1senior was mobbed afterward by a frenzied throng of supporters who earlier had watched in horror as the Mustangs missed 17 of their 19 first-quarter attempts and fell behind, 14-4. But they went 9-for-12 inthe second quarter to creep back into contention.
"We certainly didn't want to get into that kind of a game, chasing somebody," said Meade coach Butch Young, whose team improved to 14-4 overall and 6-1 in the division. "We weren't doing anything offensively in the first quarter. We were really out of sync.
"It starts mushrooming. One guy misses a layup, another guy misses a 5-foot jumper, and the first thing you know, you're asking, 'Who's going to make it?' "
Beck hadthe answer.
"It was just a matter of getting all four pistons going," said Beck, who buried five three-pointers, including one from the top of the arc to end the third quarter and reduce Old Mill's lead to 53-48.
Beck blamed the slow start on the breakdown of Meade's passing game, with poor screens and backdoor cuts.
"We weren't working as a team," he said. "We were trying to do a lot of individual things."
On this night, Beck was the most important individual on the floor.
He scored 13 points in the third quarter, including Meade's last six, and his three-pointer early in the final period narrowedthe Patriots' lead to 55-53.
After squandering two opportunities to pull even, Meade finally tied the game, 58-58, when reserve Steve Mackey scored on a follow. Old Mill would move back in front, but three Beck free throws gave the Mustangs a 63-62 lead -- their first since going ahead, 2-0.
The lead changed hands six times in the last two minutes, with Beck providing the clinching basket on a short jumper in the final 20 seconds.
Ron Hubbard (14 points) then stole theball from Patriots guard Nijui Truesdale with 11 seconds left and fed Jason Thomas for a layup that sealed the win.
Afterward, an exhausted Beck said, "I thought I just needed to give the team a little spurt."
He looked as if he could have scored blindfolded, swishing jumpers from every angle, aggressively driving the baseline and challenging any defender who put a hand in his face.
And he did so with an aching back that has plagued him since the beginningof the season.
"He's showing a lot of character coming back," Young said.
Meade's victory was its second over Old Mill in three games and lowered the Patriots' record to 14-4 overall and 5-1 in the division. Old Mill entered Friday's rubber match atop the Region IV standings, but its loss, coupled with Annapolis' 92-87 overtime upset ofSouthern of Baltimore, tightens the race considerably.
The Patriots, whose 16-of-27 shooting from the line helped keep Meade in the game, were led by senior Damion Sewell with 20 points.
"I look at itas three things," said Old Mill coach Paul Bunting. "If we had executed better offensively, if we had gotten back defensively and if we had hit from the foul line, we still win."
Young wouldn't call Friday's victory his most satisfying, recalling a comeback against Aberdeen many years ago, when the Mustangs fought back from a 51-14 deficit. But considering everything Meade had to overcome in the first half,the most recent conquest couldn't have been far behind.
Not only was there the woeful shooting to contend with, but some other oddities as well.
How about senior Ray Sommerville's first-quarter inbounds pass that struck a bank of lights overhead? Or 6-foot-3 senior Lance Taylor fouling out with 12 seconds remaining in the first half?
"We had him with three (fouls), they had him with four on Old Mill'sbench and our score book had him for five," Young said. "I don't know what the heck was right."
Fortunately for Young, everything David Beck did in the second half was right.