Aberdeen drives past Gwynn Park for title

Neal's late layup ends frustration, 50-48

Boys 2A state final

March 12, 2000|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Sophomore guard Gary Neal lobbed his right-handed, driving layup over Gwynn Park's 6-foot-9 Sharrod Ford with 5.5 seconds left to lift seventh-ranked Aberdeen to a 50-48 Class 2A state championship victory last night.

A three-point attempt by the Yellow Jackets' Seth Mitchell banked away at the buzzer, sending Aberdeen's bench into a wild celebration at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House.

The 6-2, 130-pound Neal's improbable finish against Ford -- who had blocked five shots to that point to go with his 21 points and 15 rebounds -- earned the Eagles (26-1) their ninth straight win, the program's first state crown under second-year coach Richard Hart, and the school's third state title.

Gwynn Park of Prince George's County finished at 21-6.

The game-ending sequence was set up by a defensive rebound by Tylan Gatling (12 points) with a minute left. With possession, Aberdeen called timeout with 42 seconds left.

When play resumed, Aberdeen went into a stall before Teon Edwards passed to Neal on the right wing. From the court's far side, the 15-year-old sophomore slashed through the lane and Gwynn Park's 1-3-1 zone defense to Ford.

"Coach had told us to be patient, but when I looked up I saw 10 seconds left and a wide-open lane," said Neal, who finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. "I floated it over Sharrod Ford. It was soft. When it left my hand, I knew it was going in."

Aberdeen surprised Gwynn Park by taking a first-period lead, 14-10. The underdog Eagles later pushed their advantage to nine (28-19) by halftime.

Gatling, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half, ended the first period by dribbling twice from the top of the key and driving home a dunk with 20 seconds left.

Aberdeen, eager to press its advantage, was first to emerge from the intermission.

"Coach told us to just go right back out there, get a long warm-up, sit down, have a drink," said Bill Guy, who finished with 10 points. "Coach knew we were already pumped up, that we knew what we had to do."

It was the Yellow Jackets, however, who seized the momentum with an 8-2 run to open the second half. Aberdeen was outscored, 18-9, in the period, which ended with Gywnn Park ahead, 37-36.

Consecutive third-quarter put-backs by Ford gave Gwynn Park its first lead, 33-32, with 2: 44 left in the quarter.

The Eagles, still reeling, allowed Gwynn Park to score the first four points of the final period for a 43-36 lead before recovering to pull to 43-42 on consecutive baskets by Neal, Gatling and 6-5 junior center Jai Lewis (10 points).

Guy's baseline three-pointer made it 45-all with three minutes to play. It was followed by Edwards' three-pointer from the top of the key, for a 48-48 score with 1: 35 to go.

That's when Neal took over for the Eagles.

Gwynn Park's Charles Ford, Sharrod's cousin, finished with 16 points and five steals. But Charles Ford, who had five three-pointers in a semifinal win over Edmondson, was 0-for-5 from three-point range last night due in large part to the defense of Edwards.

"Last night [against Edmondson], it seemed like everything we shot, it went in," said Sharrod Ford.

A member of the past two Aberdeen squads that lost in the semifinals, Gatling, a senior, said the Eagles came to Cole Field House this time with a "win-at-all- costs" attitude.

"We came here twice and left without anything, but this time, we wanted to take it home," Gatling said. "When I got that last rebound, I was thinking, `Now, we have to go and get what we came here for.' "

GWYNN PARK -- Mitchell 6, S. Ford 21, C. Ford 16, Britain 3, Diggs 2. Totals: 21 3-8 48.

ABERDEEN -- Neal 15, Gatling 12, Lewis 10, Guy 10, Edwards 3. Totals: 22 2-2 50. Halftime: A 28-19.

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