CHESAPEAKE CITY — Goliath, meet David.
In their previous two meetings, Bohemia Manor beat Perryville by a combined 50 points. The underdog Panthers shrugged off the past, coming into the Eagles’ house and stunning them with a 56-51 victory in Friday’s 1A East Region I first-round boys’ basketball playoff game.
The hosts led for most of the contest, but Perryville (10-9) turned the tables in the fourth quarter with a 16-2 run that saw possession after possession end in a turnover for Bo Manor. The Panther offense responded with key shots that secured a lead and free throws in the final minutes.
“I’ve never been more proud of a team in my life,” Perryville head coach Ron Kidd said. “We don’t have any seniors, and my kids worked really hard this week and last week to earn this. We played the best game that I’ve ever seen them play.”
The Eagles (12-10) appeared to take control, as they led 37-26 early in the third quarter. After seven unanswered by the Panthers, Bo Manor nailed a few more shots as time wound down to increase its lead again to 44-37.
Junior point guard Emarion Hampton got the surge going when he stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for a lay-up. After getting fouled, he completed the three-point play to cut the Eagles’ lead to 46-43. Caedon Kestner then scored inside the paint on back-to-back possessions around a Bo Manor turnover to give Perryville a 47-46 lead with 3:27 left to play. The Eagles continued to cough up the ball and were eventually forced to foul, but junior Xander Zawart went 4-for-4 at the foul line in the final minute to secure the win.
“In practice, we preach intensity, intensity,” Hampton said. “We knew we had to stick together to come back. It was just energy.”
A big key for the Perryville defense was shutting down its opponent’s outside game. The Eagles sank eight 3-pointers on the night, but only one of them came in the deciding period.
“We had the effort the whole time, and then it was the focus,” Kidd said. “We got out to the shooters that were killing us in the first half, and they really executed the game plan.”
Bo Manor took a definitive lead in the first quarter when back-to-back treys from Aidan Brown gave the hosts a 13-7 lead. They still led 15-12 at the end of the period.
The Eagles maintained a slim lead through most of the second quarter until they sped the pace with several transition baskets. They closed the frame on a 9-1 run for a 34-23 lead at halftime.
“That was part of the plan, we love to do that,” Bo Manor head coach Sandy Grimes said. “We just couldn’t get into a flow in the second half. We didn’t execute well offensively. The middle was available, but we couldn’t knock a shot down. Give them credit, their defense was tough, aggressive and they stripped us a few times. It was a grind. Basketball is a weird game.”
Hampton scored a game-high 18 points, and he added three steals on defense. Kestner also finished with three steals and notched a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Zawart scored 10 points off the bench, all of which came in the second half.
Braden Yadlosky secured a double-double off the bench with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Brown finished with five treys for 15 points, which led Bo Manor.
Despite a tough end to the season, Grimes was happy with the way his team played throughout the winter.
“It was a great season,” he said. “Everything about it was good, and this won’t define us. I’m very proud of the kids.”
Now that the Panthers have taken their game to a new level, they hope to continue their underdog story. They will remain on the road to take on top-seeded Havre de Grace. Tip-off is set for Tuesday at 6 p.m.
“We’ve got Grace and that’s a big team, so we’ve got to come back to practice and go to work,” Hampton said.