Success breeds interest.
And 14th-year Annapolis basketball coach John Brady has spent the last week answering a myriad of questions concerning his Panthers, who will make their 11th Class 4A state semifinal appearance tonight against Parkdale.
Among the most frequent of queries is, "With an overall 298-47 record, John, wouldn't you feel special to win the last two games for your second title and then retire with 300 wins?"
Brady answers with both sincerity and humor but wants to get one thing right out in the open: "If we win the championship, it'll be more for the players than for me," he said.
Then he quipped, "But it would be a nicely written script, because No. 300 is a nice, round number, and I'm a nice, round guy."
But Brady's got an even heftier reputation in basketball circles -- including 13 county and 11 regional titles.
Brady led his squad to a 106-104 state title victory over Prince George's County's High Point last year in what many have called the high school's best game ever. Only one starter, senior forward Delmore Howard (17.1 points, 6.3 rebounds), returned from that talented team.
Yet the Panthers (21-3) have repeated as county and Region IV champions and are making their fourth straight trip to the Final Four.
"Every year my players have been under the gun because expectations are so high -- especially after last year," said Brady. "That was the first time we won (the state title) in the 10 times that we've been there. Not many teams come as close to realizing their potential as this team. The guys have been under a lot of pressure, and they've accomplished a lot in spite of it."
Throughout the season, however, the Panthers have depressurized by blowing off steam offensively and effectively blowing away opposing teams. Annapolis averages 83 points, has hadfive games over 100 points and five more over 90.
However, in facing No. 4 Parkdale (19-5) tonight at 9 at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House, the Panthers could be looking at their virtual mirror image.
Parkdale even shares the same nickname.
"Their style complements what we do and it should be conducive to our game," said Brady, recalling when they first played Parkdale in December, winning, 110-101. "They didn't go real deep to their bench, maybe six or seven players when the starters got tired or in foul trouble."
Although Brady has not scouted the Prince George's County Panthers since their first clash, he has spent ample time reviewing the films of thegame.
Among his chief concerns are Parkdale's 6-foot-5 Sherrill twins, Brett and Brent, who average 13.1 and 11.3 points, respectively, and are double-figure rebounders. The two players combined for 36 points to help their team pull ahead of Annapolis by 14 points in the first half. Annapolis trailed, 53-50, at halftime.
Parkdale's 6-1 senior shooting guard Irvin Church (22.1 points), currently being looked at by Georgetown's John Thompson, is Prince George's County's third-highest scorer. He gets plenty of support from teammates Anthony Thompson (6-2, 14.5 points) and Bernard Rankin (5-11, 13.8).
"Church is an unbelievable shooter. As a team, they'll try to break us downwith the dribble and then (the twins) will try to control the boardsand get off second shots," said Brady, whose Panthers have allowed an average of 64.9 points per game.
"I hope our defense is better than the first game. We've got to keep them from penetrating. The keyis defense, rebounding and foul shooting."
Brady can relax about the latter if 6-5 junior forward Rob Wooster goes to the line. Wooster (15 points, 8.5 rebounds) has proven himself a foul-shooting master.
In Friday's 71-69 regional championship victory over Broadneck, his two free throws in the closing seconds won the game.
Then there's senior forward Dennis Edwards (6-5), who leads the team in scoring with a 27-point average, and senior guard Gerard Hyman (8.3 points,4.2 assists).
Several more players have developed during the season, including seniors Ahmed Middleton (6-1, center), John Holden (6-9, forward) and Carlos Evans (6-4 forward).
"By the nature of the style we play, we can't rely on just five or six guys. We have the capability of going deep to eight or 10 people and still have good size," said Brady. "We had to go with three subs in the third quarter against Broadneck and they all held their own."
The winner of tonight's game will face the winner of the semifinal between No. 2 Springbrook (18-6) and No. 3 Quince Orchard (19-4). Springbrook is coming off of an upset victory over Montgomery Blair, which was 23-0 before beingeliminated.
Would anything less than a state title disappoint Brady?
"I've always said the hardest thing is getting (to the state tournament), and we're going there to win," said Brady. "But there's no way I could be disappointed in this team, no matter what happens."