Late surge draws Arundel over Meade for 4A East Region I boys basketball title
In a battle where every flinch was either a shot or a turnover, where each basket was amplified 100 decibels by a roar of a crowd packed to the walls in white or black clothes, who would emerge with a handful of tickets to the Class 4A state tournament? Who wanted it more?
That, you could see in the ferocity with which sophomore Karris Scott flung himself into the air — fighting for a rebound with nobody but air. That, you could see with the intensity with which junior Nigel Omotosho drove through a four-player pileup to the net and somehow made it.
That, you could see as Arundel players crashed into one another like a hurricane flood when the Class 4A East Region I title was truly in their hands.
The Wildcats rode a surge of energy in the fourth quarter to outpace their rival Meade, 63-52, in a clash that was, in itself, its own Route 175 Classic.“We love each other, and we did it for each other,” said Omotosho, who netted 14 points for Arundel. “I’m so happy to be on that banner. Everyone doubted us. And we’re really out here now.”
Arundel coach Rodney Ramsey always knew he had the talent, even in downward seasons in years’ past. It was something that coaches long before him had seeded in the ground, that other coaches and Ramsey himself worked to bloom.
On Thursday night, Ramsey’s Wildcats found the ingredient that, when combined with skill, would produce a victory in the region championship — resilience.
“This was something we started a long time ago and started to build, and we finally did it,” Ramsey said. “We feel good about it.”
Junior Tyson Brooks, who also had 14 points, suffered a sophomore season in which he and his fellow Wildcats could only finish with three county wins in hand.
Thursday’s achievement felt sweeter for it. “I’ve been waiting for this since freshman year. Last year, we had three county wins and now we’re regional champions,” Brooks said. “It’s a blessing from God.”
Deadlocked at 10 points apiece after one quarter, someone needed to pull a stick of dynamite from his pocket to break away from his opponent. For Meade, it was junior Nasir Brockington that had the lit fuse in his hand.
Brockington, who’d already had his share of all-star moments from the two previous playoff games, had run point on nearly every drive up to this time, a minute into the second quarter. When he found he couldn’t find an open teammate, the junior settled behind the arc and sunk a 3-pointer.
After that, Arundel, which struggled through the Mustangs’ choking defense to stir up anything good inside, turned to a different kind of star to swing momentum its way.
That came through every pair of long arms that hooked a would-be Meade shot and pounded it to the floor, carving room for Brooks to lay in a few baskets in the absence of Mustangs scoring.
“I thought their size was the difference in the game,” Meade coach Mike Glick said. “They’re a very, very long team and had some easy putbacks. That was the difference.”
That seemed to be the game plan that could quell a modestly-sized Meade team; that is, until junior TJ Speight, who dropped 40 on No. 1 seed North County two days ago, began to toss a little flair.
Speight’s triple snapped Meade’s scoreless streak and brought the gap. Two more points at the foul line gave them a lead.
Had Brooks not battled through traffic to deposit a last-second layup to put Arundel up 22-21 before the buzzer, Speight (18 points) could have gift-wrapped momentum by way of a Mustangs lead for the visiting team at halftime.
That’s exactly why the Wildcats had to draw up a blueprint to take Speight out of the equation entirely, and they found one. “It was effective,” Brooks said, “so we won.”
Arundel couldn’t quite plug every leak Speight worked through in the third quarter, as the junior guard would break through to notch seven points, inlcuding three from the perimeter, before the clock expired. But when the fourth quarter began, the Wildcats made sure Speight was nowhere to be found, relying on a 3-2 defense to slow Meade down.
“We also went man after the half to make sure everybody stopped getting good looks,” Omotosho said.
It wasn’t just the Arundel defense that needed to look inward at halftime.
Omotosho shot blanks in the first two quarters. In the second two, all he could do was land basket after basket.
“I have to do a self-talk, tell myself I’m not missing any more layups and help my team out,” he said. “That’s what I did.”
All of Omotosho’s 14 points came in the second half, as the 6-foot-3 junior tag-teamed with Brooks to strip the Mustangs of hope and pile it up on Arundel’s side.
The two combined for 18 points in the latter portion of the game, doing so as their fellow teammates kept chipping around them.
The Mustangs, on their third road game in a week, funneled the last of their energy into the third quarter, as they momentarily plucked a 43-42 lead from their hosts on Speight’s trey. To Glick, that was emblematic of the team that wouldn’t give up when they were just 5-11, that lost seven games in the final minute and still believed.
“We held it together, and we just got better and better as the season went on because everyone bought in. I just couldn’t be prouder of the kids,” Glick said. “They might have lost the last game, but to me, it was a championship effort.”
But come fourth quarter, Arundel still had energy to power all of Gambrills.
Meade junior Omar Beattie’s 3-pointer in the fourth would be the Mustangs’ last tying score and second-to-last field goal of the night. After senior guard Quaadir Spence’s full-court layup, there was nothing that could stop an Arundel player as he narrowed in on the net.
Of the last 14 Wildcats points not scored from the free throw line, only one shot misfired.
“Every player played their part,” Brooks said. “Each guy knew what they had to do and we came out with it at the end.”