Up by 6 points in the fourth quarter, the Meade High Mustangs had the home court advantage on Saturday for the Class 4A Regional final against the Annapolis Panthers.
However, playing at home and coming off a recent win wasn’t enough for the Mustangs to secure a win. The Panthers took the game, 59-55.
“It was a tight game,” Mustangs head coach Pete Corriero said. “We couldn’t hit a shot early. We were down by 4 at halftime, but came back in the second quarter and were up by 6 in the fourth.”
With under three minutes on the board, the Panthers rallied to defeat Meade, which had been the regional champion for the past two years.
Last year, the two teams faced off for the 2016 regional final, with Meade the victor. On Saturday, Annapolis was ready for revenge.
“They hit unbelievable shots [in the fourth quarter],” Corriero said. “We had at least two chances to regain the lead and two shots to tie [the game].”
Meade senior Jeremy Washington put 19 points on the board for the Mustangs. Mahzi Thames contributed 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.
Chris Jones scored 20 points for the Panthers. Teammates Nyonjae Spriggs and Trey Gross put up 13 and 11, respectively.
“Both teams played really hard,” Corriero said. “It came down to making free throws when it mattered.
“At the end of the day, as long as the ball is in your hands to take the chance to take or tie the game, that’s all you can ask for.”
Undeterred by the loss, Corriero sees potential for the future of his team.
“It’s a young team with potential returners,” he said. “I’m excited about that. I think we exceeded expectations this year.”
After two years of making it to the state finals, the Mustangs now know that winning isn’t always promised.
“Sometimes a loss reignites fire,” Corriero said. “It starts with the individual guys making a commitment to becoming better and stronger players. If we do that, I’m sure we’ll be in a good position next year.”
In the off-season, Corriero hopes to continue to improve the program overall and have the team members focus on working out before returning to the court next season.
“The guys have to commit to becoming better players,” he said. “They have to understand winning isn’t always guaranteed even though that’s what we’re accustomed to.”
While the Mustangs didn’t advance to the state semifinal, Corriero is proud of his team’s achievements this season.
“As a whole, I’d say it was very successful,” he said. “It didn’t look too optimistic early on. We started with a 1-2 record, but we slowly got better and better. The guys started buying into their roles a little more.
“I’ve said from day one that there would be a lot of growing pains and there were, but we found a way to get through and grow as a team.
“We played for the county, section and region championships. I don’t know how many coaches would trade that and a 19-win season.”