Annapolis boys basketball coach John Brady is never more comfortableduring a game than when Rob Wooster steps up to the free-throw line with the outcome in the balance.
"In 14 years here, I've had maybefour or five guys who are ice on the foul line. They're just unbelievable. He's one of those guys," Brady said.
"We couldn't have gotten a better shot, as far as I was concerned, than him being on the foul line."
And because of Wooster, Annapolis has a shot at winning a second consecutive state championship.
The junior forward sank four free throws in the final 1 minute, 34 seconds -- including a pair with seven seconds remaining -- to repel afurious Broadneck rally and assure the host Panthers of a 71-69 victory in the Class 4A Region IV finals.
The win was the 298th of Brady's 14-year career and gave him his 11th region title.
Annapolis takes a 21-3 record to Thursday's state semifinal game at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House. Broadneck finished the year 20-5,including three losses to the Panthers.
Wooster ended the night with 20 points, including three three-pointers in the third quarter, when Annapolis outscored Broadneck, 22-12, to break a 35-35 halftime tie.
But, in the end, it was his foul shooting that made the difference.
"There's no doubt you think about it, but we practice those pressure shots in practice, so I had the confidence to go up there and try them," said Wooster, who was 7-for-8 from the line.
Annapolis seemed to have the game won long before Wooster's late heroics, leading, 65-51, midway through the fourth quarter.
With Bruin starters Matt Weimer and Maurice Washington (11 points) already fouled out, and 7-foot-2 Boris Beck on the verge of expulsion with four fouls, a comeback seemed improbable.
But Broadneck went on an 11-1 run to reduce the lead to four points, 66-62, with 1:49 left. Wooster hit twice from the line, but Beck scored inside, drew a foul from Annapolis center Jonathan Holden and completed the three-point play.
Broadneck had two chances to go ahead with Annapolis clinging to a 68-67 lead in the last 44 seconds, but senior guard Johnny Williams had a freethrow and leaning jumper rattle around the rim and pop out.
The Panthers' Carlos Evans hit one free throw with 31 seconds left, givingthe hosts a 69-67 lead and Broadneck another chance to tie the game or go ahead. But Williams' off-balanced jumper was too strong -- Wooster grabbed the rebound and sank the game-clinching free throws.
"When they had no timeouts left and (Wooster) was on the foul line, I felt pretty confident," Brady said. "Of course, when we were up by 14, I felt confident, too. But nothing lasts forever."
The lead would stand up, despite Beck's 22-point, 14-rebound performance.
"We double-teamed him, but they do a good job of getting him the ball, andhe does a good job of turning around and sticking it in," Brady said. "His getting in foul trouble makes a big difference."
Williams finished with 12 points, and Damian Spain added 10. Annapolis' Dennis Edwards led all scorers with 23 points, including 15 in the second half.
"We never let down. We played hard the entire way, and we played with a lot of guts," said Broadneck coach Ken Kazmarek, whose teamhad beaten Old Mill in triple overtime Wednesday, 72-70, before losing to Annapolis in the region finals for the third straight year.
"I think a lot of teams would have folded," he said. "We got right back in the basketball game, and I think that says a lot about our kids."
Brady said: "They're a resilient team. We pounded them the lasttime we played them (75-39 on Jan. 29), and they had to play three overtimes against Old Mill. And they bounced back tonight to play in avery difficult game. They didn't win 20 games because they pack it in when they're down.
The Bruins had their biggest lead, 33-27, in the second quarter, when Edwards took over. The senior forward scoredon drives along the baseline and up the middle, then followed a Spain free throw with another basket, cutting Broadneck's advantage to one point, 34-33.
After a Washington free throw, Ahmed Middleton scored on an off-balance follow at the buzzer to tie the game, 35-35, athalftime.