BALTIMORE- Just minutes removed from a dog-pile celebration that seemed improbable not too long ago, Perry Hall guard James Rider held a golden, blood stained rag that draped over top of his head to prevent any more bleeding from the ailing gash suffered from one of the many gutsy plays. Soaking in the moment at half-court, members of the Perry Hall basketball team, with Rider among them, were greeted by numerous of wide-smiled supporters.
After years and years of dissatisfaction and with an 8-15 record just a year ago, everyone in the Gator basketball organization experienced a rather hungry feeling that they were starving for on Monday night. Unfazed by the implications and with virtually no past experience to lean on, No. 10 Perry Hall shoved their youthfulness aside going into Baltimore City power, No. 7 Polytechnic, to pull off a game for the ages.
With 3.2 seconds left, and inbounding from the other end of the court in a tied game (59-59), head coach George Panageotou knew he needed to draw up a play that would waste practically no time. That’s when varsity quarterback, Reece Wiseman, zipped the inbound pass to Rider at half-court. Rider then fended off a couple Poly defenders to dish a near-perfect pass into the pocket of Anthony Higgs who feverishly threw the ball up on the side of the backboard and it fell through the bottom of the net to beat the buzzer, 61-59.
“The past is the past, you just have to keep moving,” Rider said, a junior that led the team in scoring last year. He also dished out the game winning pass and chipped in with 16 points, four rebounds and four assists. “We practice that play all the time, so we trust each other in moments like that. I saw (Higgs) in the corner and I trusted him.”
“I knew the next pass would win,” Higgs said, who made the game-winning play. “It barely got through. I was just yelling at him saying, ‘I’m open’, and once I got it, I thought it was going to get blocked. But it went in.”
Higgs finished his night with 15 points, nine rebounds and three assists.
The win Monday night is Perry Hall’s second buzzer-beating victory of the year. They also beat Millford Mill in a very similar ending a few weeks ago.
In a game that featured 22 lead changes and no lead larger than seven points, more likely than not, the most seasoned team with varsity experience walks away victorious. Coming into Poly with four seniors and nine under-classman, Panageotou knew he would have their backs against the wall.
“In games like these, teams rely on chemistry, but we’re just so young,” the head coach said. “Everything to these guys comes naturally. They like to play with each other. Our guys are special here.”
With the game teeter-tottering back and forth for the majority of the night, Poly took advantage of the Perry Hall youth; toying with them by milking out offensive possessions and answering with timely buckets. For the Gators, it could have been rather easy to get discouraged.
“We had to amp defensively,” Panageotou said. “They tried to hold the ball and we couldn’t let that happen.”
Poly’s largest lead, seven points, came at the 4:49 mark in the fourth quarter that was apart of a 9-2 run for the first three minutes and 11 seconds of the final frame.
— Kyle McFadden (@k_fadd) January 11, 2016
Since then, 6-foot-7 sophomore Laquil Hardnett willed off a series of and-one layups, to bring the game to 59-59 with 32 seconds left. Poly turned over the basketball with 3.2 seconds remaining, leading to the fast break buzzer-beater.
Hardnett turned in a solid performance; 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“I’m just really happy,” Panageotou said. “It brings me great joy on how our guys stuck together throughout the whole game and closed that out. I truly believe that this game will put Perry Hall boys basketball on the map. We’re going to keep trying and keep it rolling.”
De’Shaun Mosley had 15 points off the bench for Poly.
Perry Hall (10-1): 16, 11, 17, 17 – 61
Poly (7-2): 14, 16, 14, 15 – 59
Perry Hall – Laquil Hardnett 20, Anthony Higgs 16, James Rider 15, Tyler Holley 5, Darrell Green 4, Aaron Butler 1
Poly – De’Shaun Mosley 15, Demetrius Mims 14, Jordan Jones 12, De’Vondre Perry 9, Christian Chong-Qui 5, Kyshon Tate 4
Three-point field goals
Perry Hall (4) – Anthony Higgs 2, James Rider 2
Poly (5) – De’Shaun Mosley 2, Christian Chong-Qui 1, Demetrius Mims 1, De’Vondre Perry 1