COLLEGE PARK — “It’s been a year since I’ve been in this room,” Perry Hall’s Tyler Holley said as he walked into the post-game press conference. “I feel like Tim Duncan, I’ve been here so many times,” he continued.
Holley certainly has spent many hours in the Xfinity Center on the campus of the University of Maryland, as Perry Hall has won its region in three consecutive seasons. Against the 4A West champion Gaithersburg Trojans, the Gators looked to advance to their second straight state championship game.
After a disappointing start to the season, the Gators began to loosen up. The defending 4A state champions have certainly shown the fun they have on the court as the season has progressed. That was evident in the way they interacted on the floor. Though, as Holley said, when they know it’s time to play ball, it’s strictly business. They knew anything less than a state finals appearance would be a disappointment.
“Even though we seem playful,” Holley said. “We know the business we got to take care of.”
In dominant fashion, while having ample fun doing it, Perry Hall kept its repeat bid alive, crushing the Trojans, 85-62.
“We really are playing our best ball at the right time,” Perry Hall coach George Panageotou said.
Perry Hall’s advantage in size was clear before the ball was even tipped. Though while Perry Hall took the front foot early, Gaithersburg hung around. Perry Hall pushed its lead to seven points multiple times in the first quarter, but the Trojans fought back, coming within one possession each time. Perry Hall only led by three heading into the second quarter.
“We had to play better defensively,” Panageotou said. “We had to limit them to a tough shot, limit them to one shot, secure the board, and then that starts our transition.”
After struggling to shake the Trojans in the first quarter, the Gators completely took the game over in the second. Perry Hall dominated the glass, contested every Gaithersburg shot, and simply wore down Gaithersburg.
Perry Hall’s lead grew to 31-23, and suddenly it was double digits early in the second quarter. The Gators had all the momentum, and they didn’t look back.
Perry Hall headed to halftime with a 44-30 lead after outscoring the Trojans 22-11 in the second quarter. The lead continued to grow and grow in the second half, reaching 20, and nearing 30 points.
The Gators cruised through the second half and advanced to the state final, where they will face the winner of Bladensburg and Old Mill.
Perry Hall’s size was simply too much for the Trojans to handle. Perry Hall had more offensive rebounds, 22, then Gaithersburg had defensive rebounds, 18. The Gators held a 50-32 rebounding edge over Gaithersburg. Perry Hall had nine blocks compared to zero for the Trojans.
“When we attack the rim, we are virtually unstoppable,” Holley said.
Holley had 17 points, one of four Gators to score in double figures. Anthony Walker (15 points), Anthony Higgs (15 points) and Xavier Gravette (19 points) rounded out the group.
“I’m proud we took care of business,” Panageotou said. “We want one more really bad.”