Annapolis Area Christian School’s Justin Williams got the shot he wanted. All game long the senior standout found success getting to the basket against St. John’s Catholic Prep and converting for his team.
His final attempt was just off the mark.
Down 83-82 with just over four seconds left to play, Williams took an inbounds pass the length of the court for an eight-foot jump shot that rimmed out just before the final buzzer of the MIAA B Conference final at Archbishop Spalding High School on Wednesday night.
“I had to make something happen,” said Williams, who finished with 28 points, six rebounds and three assists. “I was able to dribble down the court. I had an open look and it was a good look, it just didn’t fall down.”
As the two teams battled in a fast-paced, up-and-down contest, Williams often found himself trading buckets with the Vikings’ superb senior Albert Odero, who led all scorers with 40 points.
“He's a very good player. He's a very humble player,” Odero said about his matchup with Williams. “I like going against him.”
Ultimately it was Odero who took the upper hand in the evening’s contest. After receiving a pass deep beyond the 3-point line, Odero made a few dribble moves to maintain space away from the defender, rose up and knocked down the game’s final basket.
“I knew [the defender] was giving me space, and I practice that rhythm shot all the time,” said Odero about his winning shot from the right wing. “It felt good coming off my hands. I knew it was going in.”
Having lost to the Eagles twice in the regular season, by 13 and 34 points respectively, the Vikings fought hard to keep the contest close throughout. Viking senior Elijah Boyd added 20 points to help push his squad to victory.
“Annapolis Area is a great team,” Vikings first-year coach Tim Abercrombie said. “Honestly, we lucked out. It bounced our way a couple of times at the end of the game.”
The Vikings eliminated Gerstell Academy and then upset no. 2-seed St. Paul’s to find their way into the finals. The Eagles defeated Severn, 66-52, in the conference semifinal to secure their shot at the title.
“I was anticipating them attacking as they did,” AACS coach Doug Scheidt said. “I was also anticipating us doing a little better job of us sticking them, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Eagles reached the conference finals last season as well, but were defeated by Boys’ Latin.
“We just didn’t bring our ‘A’ game today,” Scheidt said. “And we’ve got to do that in a championship game.”
Senior Nate Eberle chipped in 23 points, two rebounds and three assists in the loss for AACS, including five baskets from beyond the arc.
After giving up 23 points in the first quarter, St. John’s tightened its defense, allowing fewer and fewer points each subsequent period. They gave up just 16 points in the decisive final period.
“We knew we had to come in here and fight,” Odero said. “We tried keeping the game close, because that’s the only way we were going to win this.”
Wayne Bristol and Jarrett Heckert each added 8 points for the Eagles. Ryan Rawlings, one of seven seniors on the AACS roster, contributed a balanced effort of 6 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“I love every guy on this team,” Eberle said. “We're a great family. [We’re] sorry to end this way, but we had a great season.”