Arundel High's boys basketball team stunned fourth-ranked Annapolis, 76-74, last night in Gambrills.
It marked the first victory for the Wildcats (7-3) over Annapolis (6-2) since 1975, when the late Jerry Mears was head coach of an Arundel team that went to the state playoffs at Cole Field House. The late Al Laramore was the Annapolis coach and his successor John Brady, who is in his 16th season, had never lost in more than 30 games to Arundel.
"I think so," said a smiling Arundel coach Gerald Moore, when asked if his team had arrived. Arundel has not had a winning season in boys basketball since 1979.
"We've been working hard for this. When I got here four years ago, the program was down. There was no good attitude and commitment, but patience, the excellent JV program we have now and my three assistant coaches [Randy Fewell, Chet Lipton and Brian Love] have us there.
"I'm crazy -- you know that -- and my three assistants keep me straight. I couldn't do it without them."
With 1:03 left, Arundel took the biggest lead of the game at 73-65 after 6-foot-5 senior Richard Abrams' three-point play. Abrams, who had 11 of his game-high 28 points in the final period, took a pass from junior guard Jeff Hedrick (17 points, six rebounds), scored underneath and was fouled.
After Abrams' fifth consecutive free throw in the final period, the Wildcats held on despite a furious rally by the Panthers in the last minute. Kelsey Watkins' three-pointer made it 73-68 with 39 seconds to go, but three seconds later Hedrick hit the front end of a one-and-one and the lead was 74-68.
The Panthers' Wendell Williams (five rebounds) was fouled on a layup with 24 seconds remaining and converted it to a three-point play to cut the margin to three at 74-71.
Hedrick, who had five of his seven steals in the second half, said afterward that he "loves to be in that situation," went to the line again and duplicated his previous effort by hitting the front of a one-and-one to get the Wildcats back to a four-point lead (75-71) with 23 seconds left. Williams, who had 15 of his team-high 22 points in the second half, hit a short jumper and suddenly it was 75-73 with 12 seconds left.
This time the Panthers fouled Kevin Higgins (17 points, three rebounds), who also hit the first of two and on the miss, B. J. Gross (nine points, nine rebounds) pulled down the rebound and Lozonnah James (15 points) was fouled on the outlet pass with four seconds to go.
James hit the front end of the two-shot foul to cut the deficit to 76-74, and Brady called a timeout.
"We told Lozonnah to hit the front end of the rim, but as you saw, it went under and out," said Brady, whose team would meet Arundel again this year only in the playoffs.
"We kept the pressure on them at the end, but they did what they had to do to win it at the end. We knew it was going to be a tough game coming in."
Hedrick said: "We were confident that we could play with them and we did. It feels great."