Anne Arundel County is down to three boys teams in the high school hoop playoffs, the same three who were there a year ago at this time.
For the third year in a row, it's going to be Annapolis (20-3) and Broadneck (20-4) in the Class 4A Region IV final. That game is at 7 tonight at top-seeded and defending state 4A champion Annapolis.
And once again in the Class 2A Region III final is Northeast, butwith a different opponent.
Northeast (16-7) gets a chance to redeem itself in tonight's 6 o'clock contest against Forestville (19-4) of Prince George's County at Prince George's Community College, where the Eagles were humbled by 25 points by Central (Prince George's) a year ago.
FOR THE RECORD - The "Sidelines" column in the March 1 Anne Arundel County Sun incorrectly implied that a Broadneck basketball player transferred to the school this season from Prince George's County.
In fact, junior Maurice Washington moved to Anne Arundel County in the ninth grade.
Annapolis is hoping for an encore while Broadneck and Northeast are looking to take the giant step to Cole Field House, University of Maryland, for next week's final four in their respective classifications.
The trio advanced to their region finals with Wednesday night victories: Annapolis by 80-68 over Meade (18-6); Broadneck by 72-70 in triple overtime over Old Mill (18-5); and Northeast with a63-62 thriller over Southern (13-11).
Forestville moved into the 2A Region III final opposite Northeast with a 57-52 triumph over Fairmont Heights (9-15), also of Prince George's.
In its region semifinal victory, Annapolis made it a county record eight straight 20-win seasons under Coach John Brady, while Broadneck notched its school-record third consecutive 20-win season under Coach Ken Kazmarek.
Annapolis took both regular-season games from the Bruins this season by scores of 43-36 (Jan. 4) and 75-39 (Jan. 29), and in the last two 4A Region IV finals, it's been the Fighting Panthers by 58-47 (1990) and81-54 (1989).
In the 1987-1988 season, Broadneck's first as a 4A school, Annapolis eliminated the Bruins in the region semis, and thenAnnapolis lost to Meade in the finale with Meade going to College Park.
The Annapolis-Broadneck rivalry has developed into the county's most intense over the last three years despite the fact that the Bruins have won only two of 11 games from the Panthers since Broadneck became a 4A school.
Broadneck first beat Annapolis during the regular season in 1988-1989 by 80-79 in triple overtime at Broadneck. Annapolis had taken the first regular-season meeting that year, 56-50, at home.
Last season, the Bruins took the first encounter, again atBroadneck, 80-59, but the Panthers roared back at home with a 63-54 victory before winning again in the region final.
Since their lastmeeting back on Jan. 29 at Broadneck on a night when the Panthers were practically invincible in their 36-point rout, the Bruins have started playing 7-foot-2 German transfer Boris Beck more. As a result, the Bruins have emerged as a bona fide contender.
There are many ofus who feel that Kazmarek blew it the first time the two teams met this season at Annapolis when he pulled Beck following two quick buckets by the big guy near the end of the third period. With Beck on the pines, Annapolis regained control of the game and went on to post theseven-point victory.
In the second clash, Annapolis raced out, 15-2, in the first period, and by intermission it was 37-21 and the rout was on. On a night that Dennis Edwards was to pour in 41 points, a spectacular 24-4 run in the third period with Edwards getting the first 13 points buried the Bruins.
Beck led Broadneck that night with12 points but was never a factor, and he won't be tomorrow night if the Bruins allow the Panthers to fill it up early. In order for Beck to be a factor, the Bruins have to control the tempo and keep Annapolis from running away.
If Broadneck gets behind, the big guy won't be able to come out from under the bucket and stop anybody. In their semifinal victory at Old Mill on Wednesday night, Beck had his biggest game of the season with 27 points, eight boards and eight blocked shots.
That's the kind of game Beck will have to have tonight in order for the third-seeded Bruins to upset the Panthers. And he will have to do it against a likely zone defense. In the two games between the two, Brady has employed the man-to-man when Beck was not in the game and the zone when he was.
In the lopsided game, Kaz got Beck intoo late. He's got to either start the Hamburg native or get him in within the first couple of minutes in order to have a shot. Also, Broadneck needs to get continued clutch play from another transfer student (from Prince George's County), junior Maurice Washington, who had 15 points against Old Mill and 18 on Monday in the first-round 65-34 romp over LaPLata of Charles County.
At the same time, Broadneck has to hope that Edwards doesn't have one of his patented high-octane nights. When Edwards is hot, it's like watching an exploding scoreboard.