Annapolis tough in stretch to hold off Old Mill, 72-68 Panthers coach Brady dons 12th regional crown

Boys basketball

March 03, 1996|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Annapolis coach John Brady called it "the toughest win of my entire career. What could go wrong did, but we hung in there to win."

Brady's No. 8 Panthers held off Old Mill, 72-68, to win the Class 4A East region championship in front of a packed house in Millersville last night. The region title was Brady's 12th in 19 years (396-73, .844), the most by any Anne Arundel County coach and a record 23rd for Annapolis.

The Panthers survived a 30-point effort by Old Mill's Joe Barnes, who had six three-pointers, including a 55-footer on the third-period buzzer that brought the Patriots back from a 16-point deficit to 52-42 going into the last quarter.

Old Mill (10-14) was attempting to become the first 4A region champion with a losing record and make its second appearance in the states since 1992.

Annapolis (21-5) makes its first appearance at Cole Field House since 1991 at 7 p.m. Thursday vs. the South region winner from Prince George's County.

"There wasn't an open tournament when we won it last and this is the 12th, but the best and most satisfying," said Brady, clutching the hand of his 7-year-old daughter Erin while his team cut down the net.

"In the past we usually had to win two games in the region to get to Cole, but this year we had to win four [Glen Burnie, Calvert County teams Northern and Calvert, and Old Mill] tough games because of the stupid blind draw."

Brady pointed to the Annapolis tradition and said it "puts pressure on our team every night we play."

The Panthers met that pressure head-on last night.

Six-foot-7 junior Boo Diggs roamed the floor with abandon, scoring 12 points, scarfing up a game high 12 rebounds, dishing off two assists and making five steals. Diggs, who usually gets into foul trouble, had only two personals last night.

Senior swingman Ryan Dacey led the Panthers with 19 points, three assists and two steals while senior point guard John Downs scored 11 points, handed off four assists and had a game-high seven steals.

Dacey, who had a trio of three-pointers, sank seven of 10 from the line and Downs four of six down the stretch to ice the win.

"It's very special for the seniors on this team because it's our first time and I credit Mr. Brady because he motivates us," said Downs.

Another senior, Phil Hyman, had 12 of his 16 points in the second period to give the Panthers a 10-point halftime lead.

Juniors Brian Barber and defensive ace Barry Booth contributed the intangibles defensively, especially in the final period. The 6-6 Barber scored four of his nine points after a Dacey three on a dunk and putback to start the last eight minutes when things started to get hairy for the Panthers.

Barnes unloaded a 55-footer to put a wrap on the third period and came right back seconds into the final period with another three to make it a 52-45 game.

A senior guard who led his team in rebounds last night with seven and had three steals, Barnes fired in two more from long range, and cut the Panthers' lead to 61-53 with just over three minutes to go.

Barnes would not score again as Booth smothered him and denied him the ball. Booth did not score a point, but his defense while playing with four fouls was brilliant in the waning seconds.

With the attention on Barnes, Old Mill's 6-5 center Anthony Graves (five boards) tossed in 12 of his 16 points in the last period.

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