Juan Johnson's passing, Rodney Watts' rebounding and Ronnie Johnson's scoring enabled No. 3 Annapolis to turn back No. 19 Arundel, 89-77, last night in a Class 4A, East Region semifinal.
The win gave the top-seeded Panthers (21-2) the right to play host to the region final against No. 10 Glen Burnie tomorrow at 7 p.m.
Juan Johnson did a little bit of everything for the winners, coming off the bench to register 12 points, a game-high eight assists and four rebounds.
Watts, a burly 6-foot-5 center, hauled in a game-high 18 rebounds and added 15 points.
Ronnie Johnson rung up a team-best 23 points to go with six rebounds.
Kelsey Watkins (14 points, four rebounds), and Lewis Day (11 points) also reached double figures for the victors.
"Juan did a great job of picking the team up. We were lacking enthusiasm for a while, but he came in the game and charged us up," said Panther coach John Brady.
Annapolis used a 17-7 spurt to open the third period, giving it its largest lead of the night with four minutes remaining.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats (16-8) went on a 12-2 tear led by Bakari Ward (25 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals) to close the lead to 67-60 with 50 seconds to go in the period.
Following a John Golombeck steal, the Wildcats had a chance to cut the lead, but the reserve shooting guard was whistled for a backcourt violation. Annapolis promptly tallied five straight points in 15 seconds to end the period.
"That backcourt call really took our momentum," said Arundel coach Gerald Moore, whose team finished with its best record in nearly 20 years. "We had a chance to get within four or five, then all of sudden were down by 12. But hey, we got beat fair and square by a good team."
Both squads began the second period on with five consecutive three-pointers between them during the first minute.
Golombeck (11 points) hit the first and third three-pointers for the Cats, while Daryl Cooper (eight points) hit the second. Day fired in two in between. The final Arundel three-pointer brought them within two at 31-29. The Panthers would go on to take a 48-42 halftime lead.
Paul Madden joined Ward and Golombeck in double figures with 10 points. Senior center Sean Soyars, the Wildcats' leading scorer with over 22 points a game, managed just nine points to go with nine rebounds. Point guard Jeff Hedrick (six points, five assists) led the Wildcats in rebounding with 11.