(Feb. 27, 2015) Despite a fourth-quarter run by the Holly Grove Eagles, the Worcester Prep boys’ basketball team held on to win Monday’s Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference semifinal match, 44-39, to advance to the championship game.
“We played one of the best games we had all year. Our defense was amazing against their big guys. We practice specifically how to defend a team with good post players and we executed perfectly,” said Prep Coach Keith Geiger. “On offense, we played patiently, but aggressively. All year, we have gotten better at choosing when to push the ball and when to be patient, and I thought we did a great job of that. We limited the turnovers and played great defense, and when we do that, we are tough.”
The semifinal win was a big victory for the Mallards after they fell to the Eagles 67-37 on Feb. 13.
“It was a big turnaround. That game we lost, we played terribly and Holly Grove played exceptionally,” Geiger said. “I knew that we were better than we played that day. I think everyone on the team knew it as well.”
On Monday night, the second-seeded Mallards were pumped up and they fed off the energy from their cheering fans. The game had been rescheduled several times because of snow and the Prep squad was ready to step on the court for competition.
“The fans were amazing. They made the home court really mean something,” Geiger said.
Worcester outscored third-seeded Holly Grove 14-4 in the opening quarter.
Tucker Brown threw up a shot behind the three-point line just before the buzzer for halftime and was fouled. He stepped to the line and hit two of three free throws as the crowd proudly chanted “he’s a freshman.” The Mallards went into the break on top 23-12.
Worcester dominated the third quarter, scoring 12 points to Holly Grove’s six to pull ahead 35-18.
The Eagles turned up the pressure in the fourth quarter and started chipping away at the Mallards’ lead. They got within two points, 41-39, with 40 seconds on the clock.
Brown was fouled and made one of two free throws with 28.8 seconds left in the game.
With 19 seconds remaining, a Holly Grove player received a technical foul for arguing a referee call. Sophomore Owen Nally took the foul shots, hitting one to boost Worcester’s advantage to 43-39.
He was fouled with 5.5 seconds on the clock and netted one shot to provide his team with a five-point lead.
“In the fourth quarter, a couple of things happened. They pressed us, which we were ready for. We ended up with a few lay-ups but our guys are young, a little inexperienced, and we couldn’t convert,” Geiger said. “We also missed a lot of foul shots at the end. Another thing was their point guard, Alan Perkins, went nuts in the fourth. He hit four threes in a matter of a couple minutes and [they] were NBA range. He almost single-handedly won the game for them.”
Junior Elio Telo led Worcester with 18 points and seven rebounds. Nally finished the game with 14 points and junior captain Wyatt Richins chipped in with five points and seven rebounds.
“I was very pleased with the guys. It was a good experience for everyone,” Geiger said. “A coach is always happy when the players listen and stick to the game plan. Our guys did that perfectly. Except for a few fumbles at the end and Perkins getting hot, the game was played very well.”
Worcester was scheduled to play the No. 4 seed, the Delmarva Christian Royals, on Thursday but it was postponed to Saturday at 1 p.m. in Berlin because of snow.
The Mallards edged out the Royals 37-35 on Dec. 17 and 34-31 on Feb. 4.
“We beat them both times this year, but only by two or three each time, so it should be a good one,” Geiger said Tuesday.