COLLEGE PARK — He absolutely refused to make excuses or curse his fate. And he couldn't understand why the faces of those around him looked so grim.
Annapolis boys basketball coach John Brady emerged from his team's locker room Thursday night in relatively good spirits, considering the top-seeded Panthers had just been upset by No. 4 Parkdale of Prince George's County, 62-60, in the Class 4A state semifinals at Cole FieldHouse.
This was a man who did not need consoling. Not yet, at least.
"I'm not disappointed, I'm not depressed, I'm not down," he insisted,trying to lighten the mood. "Our players had a great season, and I don't think anybody should put a damper on it because they lost one game in the final four."
The Panthers (21-4) gave Brady his eighth straight 20-win season and 11th region championship. And included among the year's conquests were memorable slugfests with Parkdale (110-101 on Dec. 6) and Southern-Baltimore (92-87 in overtime on Feb. 8).
But the myriad of highlights were being pushed aside for one night by the playoff failure, and Brady didn't like it.
"If the barometerof success is winning it all, then we're all a bunch of losers because there aren't too many people who win it all. And we've won a hell of a lot more than we've lost," he said.
The outcome of Thursday'sgame wasn't decided until the last second, when Annapolis senior Dennis Edwards (25 points) was stripped of the ball by Parkdale's Irvin Church while going up for the possible tying shot.
Church already had proven masterful in the clutch, calmly netting the last of his game-high 30 points from the foul line.
His two free throws following a Delmore Howard foul with five seconds remaining broke a 60-60 tieand gave Parkdale its fifth and final lead.
"A game like this comes down to one or two plays," Brady said. "If we get that last shot off and tie it and go into overtime, or (Church) misses the foul shotsand we get the last shot . . . it's one or two plays.
Church, a 6-foot-1 guard, seemed to be making all the plays.
"He's an outstanding player and a very, very hard worker," said Parkdale coach Ken Freeman, who won six state titles at Fairmont Heights during the 1960s and '70s.
The Panthers didn't enjoy the same velvet touch from theoutside as Church displayed all evening.
The normally reliable Rob Wooster struggled, only making four of 16 shots and going 3-for-12 from three-point range.
"I was trying to rush it too fast," he said afterward in a barely audible tone.
Brady quickly came to Wooster's defense, noting that it was the junior forward's last three-pointer that tied the game at 60.
"He hit a big shot when it counted," Brady said. "He hit that three from pretty long distance, so I don't have any problems."
Then there was senior Delmore Howard, who ended his Annapolis career with 5-for-14 shooting -- including 1-for-7 from three-point range -- and five fouls.
The 6-6 guard sat on the Panthers' bench for most of the third quarter, watching as his teammates scored the first six points to lead, 49-44, before Parkdale went on a decisive 13-0 run.
Brady's team had closed the first half in equally poor fashion, squandering a 43-38 lead in the final minute when Parkdale took advantage of two late turnovers to score six unanswered points.
The last two points were particularly irksome to Brady,with Parkdale's Brett Sherrill stealing a rebound from Edwards and feeding center Anthony Thompson for a layup at the buzzer.
"A couple mistakes here and there," Brady said, still sounding philosophical."You string good plays together and build a lead, you string bad plays together and they get back in the game."
Parkdale stayed there the rest of the way, refusing to be suckered into another exhausting chase with the deeper Panthers.
"We wanted to slow it down," Freeman said. "Otherwise, Brady would have beaten the pants off me."
Instead, it was Brady who was beaten -- but unbowed.