Meade had every reason to lose last night's Class 4A East regional semifinal at Arundel.
The Mustangs already had been assessed two technical fouls in the second half, and their leading scorer, Doug Underwood, was the victim of a sensational box-and-one defense which limited his effectiveness after halftime.
But Underwood saved his best for last, hitting a heart-stopping three-pointer from just inside the half-court line as time expired to give the Mustangs a dramatic 62-59 win.
"When it left my hand, I knew it was going in," said an elated Underwood after Meade fans mobbed him. "It was do or die, and I made it count when I had to."
Underwood led the Mustangs (16-8) with 25 points, 11 in the fourth quarter. Arundel was led by Derek Hardin's 16 points.
Meade, which trailed most of the second half, advanced to face Severna Park, a winner last night over North County, for the Class 4A East region title tomorrow.
The Mustangs appeared to be losing their composure in the second half. The Arundel defense, using a box-and-one with forward Paul D'Imperio closing down Underwood, frustrated Meade. A technical foul assessed to the Meade bench and another later in the half to Marcus Davis for comments to the referees didn't help matters.
Meanwhile, Arundel (10-15) was capitalizing on its chances. The Wildcats took their biggest lead, 46-37, with 1: 21 left in the third quarter. Arundel outscored Meade 14-8 in the quarter, holding Underwood scoreless.
But in the final period, the Mustangs chipped away at the lead, finally tying the score at 58 with 1: 26 left.
The teams traded foul shots, and Arundel had the ball with 42 seconds left and the score tied at 59. Arundel's Rodney Spriggs drove for a lay-up in a crowd with three seconds left, but the ball bounced off the rim and into a Meade defender's hands.
The Mustangs' outlet pass hit Underwood in full stride at mid-court. He dribbled once before making the game-winner.
"This was a gut check for us," said Meade coach Butch Young. "You preach to them all year, never to quit and to work hard, and good things will happen. I think our players learned that tonight."
For Arundel, the loss was a heart-breaker. The Wildcats had lost to Meade by 18 points in their previous meeting on Jan. 11 and had knocked off top-seeded Westminster, 59-55, in the quarterfinals.
"I told them that sports is like life -- there will be ups and downs, and this is a down," said an emotional Sam Golder, Arundel's coach. "I told them I was really proud of them and their effort and that none of them had anything to be ashamed of. We were 3-10 after January, and we finished 10-15. That shows you the kind of kids they are."
As for Underwood's heroics, Golder just shook his head.
"It was Jordan-like," he said. "All coaches are pessimists, and I think I knew when he threw it that it was going in."
Class 2A North
No. 7 Dunbar 86, Catonsville 73: Calvin Dotson scored 20 points, and Kenneth Minor had 19 as the Poets (18-5) overcame the visiting Comets in a semifinal.
Dunbar used a big run near the end of the first half to widen the gap against the Comets (15-9) and to keep alive its hopes of winning its seventh state title in eight seasons.
The Poets (18-5) play host tomorrow to Edmondson, and hope their height advantage will help them get to College Park.
Edmondson 75, Poly 65: The Redskins got 20 points, five assists and four rebounds from senior Kiraan Posey in their win at home.
Senior guard Eddie Colbert, the quarterback of Edmondson's football team, had 13 points and three rebounds.