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It may have been the strangest way to end a regional final — a double technical foul called with .4 seconds left, giving both teams a free shot without it possibly making a mathematical difference.

But by then, Meade couldn’t care. The glory of the scrappiest game of their lives washed over, getting them dancing. Through sheer will and clever defensive planning against the odds, the Mustangs rallied and slayed their dragon.

In a chaotic back-and-forth game in which both teams at one point surrendered significant leads, No. 1 seed Meade cascaded over its bitterest rival, No. 2 Arundel to claim the Class 4A East Region I title, 63-59. The Mustangs advance to the state quarterfinals on Friday, facing No. 6 Northwest at 7 as the third seed.

With the win, the Mustangs served revenge on the Wildcats for beating them in the county championship — and beating them in the last region final.

“I’ve been involved with a lot of games and that was probably one of the grittiest, gutsiest performances I have seen in 29 years of high school coaching,” Mustangs coach Mike Glick said.

Meade’s second quarter comeback was Herculean enough, but even more impressive was what came later. Arundel destroyed the Mustangs’ 12-point lead in the fourth on a hot streak, took the lead and fouled out one of Meade’s stars, Andre Campbell, all in one fell swoop. Then the Mustangs just kept missing every free throw chance they got.

Rather than crumbling, the Mustangs bucked up; they kept within a point of the Wildcats until senior Xavion Roberson’s free throws and layup recaptured Meade control for good. As he did, chants of “MVP” rose to a crescendo.

“Anybody on this team can be that guy that night,” said Roberson, who had 17 points. “I’m not the MVP. The whole team is.”

In that is Meade’s entire season’s essence. They trusted one another to regroup on the floor when their offense wasn’t flowing. They trusted assistant coach Mike Francis when he suggested switching to a triangle-and-two defense to stop both Karris Scott, whom they’d expected to play well, and Elisha Williams, who surprised them with 16 points.

Shawn Jones surprised Arundel right back, not only with his 15 points, not only with his well-earned improvement at the foul line, but even with where Meade put him, outside to draw heat out of the paint.
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Glick believed Jones could improve after a lackluster county championship and challenged him to be better. Jones listened. He shot 5-for-7 from the stripe even as Arundel fans screamed.

“I wasn’t gonna let them get in my head,” he said. “I knocked them down.”

The first quarter got out of Meade’s hands. As Mustangs pushed inside to try and shoot, 6-foot-7 Arundel senior Azim Sana loomed like Godzilla from the sea, batting their attempts to the earth. Meade, usually quite comfortable in the paint, struggled to establish any sort of rhythm — unlike Arundel.

The Wildcats took advantage of multiple turnovers and rebounds collected after misfired Meade shots to drum up their offense. Arundel showed as much comfortability under the net as it did from the perimeter, as both Williams and DeAndre Johnson successfully exercised their 3-point shot. Just like in the county championship, Arundel controlled the tempo.

Trailing 15-8 into the second, Meade looked more and more out-of-system. The Wildcats hassled the ball-handlers and locked down any airspace at the post. Limited to the arc, the adept 3-point-shooting Mustangs could not even land those.

While Meade scribbled on their drawing board, it kept Arundel from running away. Shot after shot dribbled helplessly off the glass. Its cushion disappeared as Jones and Campbell scratched at it. As Meade embarked on a 14-3 run, the former dished to the latter to land the go-ahead basket, 21-20.

“[Defense] flipped the game totally,” Roberson said. “Our defense translates our offense.”

Now, it was Arundel running to timeout, but the best of Meade was still brewing. As time expired, Roberson put Meade up 31-24 at the half. As senior Bryson Spruell got hot from the perimeter and the ball kept flowing Meade’s way, that mark only improved to 50-38 at the end of the third.

One would think a dozen-point lead would be somewhat safe. But not with Arundel.

As they gathered together before the fourth, the Wildcats swapped out the team they were in the third for the team they could be.

Arundel senior Thomas Loughry’s two 3-pointers lit the torch as the Wildcats netted 14-straight, the lead changing 54-53 in the hands of senior Messiah Anderson with around two minutes to go.

Though Meade played to an unbeaten mark in the county in the regular season, it did know defeat: a loss to City, a loss to Indian Creek. Then, of course, Arundel’s win in the county championship.

“They won that championship and they thought they won it all,” Roberson said. “We already knew we was gonna come back.”

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Above all, Meade boys basketball has always played for each other. It’s what got them this far and it’s what directly led to their ultimate thrashing of Glen Burnie on Monday night.

Behind double-digit performances from multiple starters, the No. 1 seed Mustangs got their groove back against the fourth-seeded Gophers, 68-48, in the Class 4A East Region I semifinal at home. After nearly losing to Glen Burnie two games before and bowing to Arundel in the county championship, it’s exactly what Meade needed before the region final.

But, this isn’t Meade’s first win since Arundel, who the Mustangs next play in the Class 4A East Region I final on Wednesday.

Though unofficial, the Mustangs scrimmaged Oxon Hill, one of 3A’s top contenders, last week and crushed them by 17 points.

“Best game we had all season. It was a springboard for this game,” Meade coach Mike Glick said. “It really gave our kids some confidence.”

Senior Bryson Spruell, who led Meade with 21 points, typified the exact kind of confidence and brotherly love that spurred the Mustangs from his coach’s point of view. Fellow senior Andre Campbell (12 points) spirited down-court, flicking him the assist in the corner that soon became a 3-pointer. Both smiled.

“We just move the ball around, shoot open shots, just work as a team,” Spruell said. “When we work as a team, no one can beat us.”

This journey holds a special position for Spruell. His older brother, Bruce, played for the championship 2014-15 squad.

“That’s been my dream, ever since I saw him do it,” Spruell said.

For ages, no Meade basket was enough to spark a run. Spruell didn’t like that.

The senior sunk a pair of 3-point shots before collecting a steal from Kyree Scott to drop in another basket, helping Meade to an 18-11 cushion after a quarter.

This was no standalone spurt: behind Spruell, the Mustangs shoved double-digits between themselves and Glen Burnie. Campbell got in on the perimeter action. Xavier Roberson (11 points) came alive. The Gophers recovered and started rattling off layups again, but against Meade, who’d started giving itself more chances off the glass, two points every other possession wasn’t enough. Meade’s defense began having an effect it’d been looking for in the first, smothering Gopher ballhandlers and forcing turnovers.

It was a night-and-day difference from their previous meeting.

“We did not shoot the ball well then. [Glen Burnie] coach [Mike] Rudd had an excellent game plan and executed it, doubling Shawn Jones in the post, that really affected us,” Glick said. “We didn’t have the energy we had today.”

There were just two things bugging Meade: The first was foul trouble. Both Spruell and Campbell entered the second half tagged with two fouls; Spruell suffered another early in the third. Then there was the stripe. Meade has struggled at the foul line all season, and Monday was no different as the Mustangs shot 7 for 18.

But as the game progressed, Meade improved. It shot 2-for-8 in the first half, but 5-for-10 in the second.

“All you can do is work on the mental,” Glick said. “We’ll work on it in practice.”

That continued to stick them in the side as Glen Burnie kept pace in the third, having improved its boxing out, led at the net by senior Braxton Clarke (eight points).

But the thing that got Meade out of offensive scrapes over and over again was the very thing that’d gotten them to an unbeaten regular season in the county: sheer, unadulterated chemistry.

Meade’s passing outshined Glen Burnie’s defense, leading to a pair of treys and a sea of putbacks. It seemingly didn’t fear the mounting fouls pinned on its best shooters anymore, and how could it? After leading 56-34 into the fourth quarter, Spruell, then marked with four fouls, dropped five points in 20 seconds.

“Bryson’s gotten so much better at the intangibles, rebounding, getting loose balls, steals,” Glick said. “I couldn’t be prouder of Bryson. He’s playing his best basketball. He’s gotten better every time.”

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It’s less than a day before the Anne Arundel County basketball championship and the sound of laughter can be heard in the Meade High School halls.

The boys basketball team crowds to watch film of its previous Arundel game it won by a single point, 62-61. There’s no break in the merriment; coach Mike Glick clicks back and forth between free throws — John Teague in the video is about to miss both of his shots, and all the boys, Teague included, are grinning, clowning one another. On screen, Xavion Roberson makes some sort of gesture when the winning buzzer sounds and there’s howls from this audience.

Saturday’s game is the highest stakes yet, and the Mustangs are happy, stress-free. These boys, who hardly knew one another a few months ago, trust each other now. It’s hard to believe that at one time, the team rolling into a county championship with an undefeated county record, didn’t have that before.

“We all wanted the same thing: a state championship,” senior Andre Campbell said. “Everybody wanted it as bad as each other.”

Because a canceled 2020-21 season amidst the pandemic wiped out a whole winter of development and team bonding, most coaches fretted over building chemistry in their programs before this season’s start. Glick shared those concerns as much as anyone.

The players weren’t total strangers. They glanced one another on AAU teams, asked “You’re coming to Meade next year?” A few suited up for junior varsity in 2019-20. But as whole, they weren’t friends. Glick remembers during early-season practices, the players took water breaks in silence.

Glick and his staff circled up his players after one of the first practices to talk. They hashed out whatever they wanted to say to one another, and they were honest. Brutally so, as much about the bad as they were about the good things.

“We just got close after that,” said Teague, who’d never felt like he could talk with people he didn’t know before. “We got a little group chat called ‘State Champions.’ We’re trying to go to the states after all.”

That’s not to say they were perfect from then on out. Early in the season, Meade played a bit selfishly, Glick said, trying to spin fancy plays out of overconfidence. But now, the Mustangs pass the ball around, wait for the second touch to shoot, making defenses play longer.

It’s the biggest point of pride for Roberson — not the skills, not the winning, but the why of it.

“The unselfishness. Everybody doesn’t care, we all just want to see a win,” said Roberson, who has 61 assists. “We’ll do whatever we need to do to get it.”

That unique quality readily comes from their variety: there’s no Division I star sopping up all the attention while his teammates prop him up. They’ve all adopted the same mantra: whoever’s hot in that moment, get him the ball.

Meade rains down buckets, extends unbeaten streak in county to 16 with win over South River »
They’ll rematch the Wildcats with a squad in which four players average double figures: Roberson (15.3 points per game), junior Shawn Jones (12.5), Bryson Spruell (11.7) and Kyree Scott (10.1). Campbell, who missed part of the season to an ankle injury, is on the cusp with 9.3 and leads in steals (42, tied with Roberson).

“The kids don’t have egos on this team. Everybody’s in a situation where they’ll sacrifice for their teammate and their brother,” Glick said. “That’s a special bond this team has and it’s one reason we went undefeated in the county.”

The Mustangs are undeniably in their prime right now after dropping 13 3-pointers on South River on Monday – their second 13 3-pointer-performance in a week. That’s why it was helpful for them to nearly lose to Glen Burnie on Wednesday.

It’s still fresh; they’re still not quite sure why their shots didn’t fall, but they didn’t. They know the Gophers guarded Jones. They know a point separated themselves and crushing defeat.

“They found a way to win,” Glick said. “This team has won two one-point games and two two-point games. I’m proud of how they stick together. They’re able to face adversity and not turn on each other and get frustrated.”

There are two out-of-county losses. Emotionally, the Mustangs hardly count their first against Indian Creek: they were still getting to know each other then. The subsequent loss against City in late January? That was different.

Jones rolled his ankle and couldn’t play. His teammates told him then if they’d had him, things would be different. Jones told them: no.

“After that loss, we took that as everybody steps up,” he said. “… We started taking things seriously.”
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None of this was expected. Campbell recalls some community members telling him Meade wouldn’t be very good this year. They didn’t have size, they couldn’t guard, no shooters. Lately, classmates approach the players at school and tell them they’re coming to watch them. Meade folks pack the stands now, roar to the heavens at every play.

The doubt didn’t stop after the first few wins. Jones remembers people telling him they’d lose to Southern. Then Arundel. He took it to heart.

Meade drops rival Old Mill with balance, strong team play in convincing 80-45 win »
“We’ve always been a basketball school. And it’s like, if we’re bad, they think we’re just tall and we have bad grades. But when basketball stands out,” Jones said, “and we have good grades and we can multitask — that gets the change of heart. People can think, ‘Oh, they’re not bad kids.’”

Every player names a different game as to when he feels like the team became who they are now.

Jones says it’s that early Indian Creek loss. Teague says Glen Burnie, the first time when they blew the Gophers out, because they could see how good they are. But the reason is always the same: that’s when they understood each other, how they play and how to play with one another.

That’s why the pressure doesn’t bother them too much. Roberson said it doesn’t affect him at all and it’s because of trust.

“We rely on each other,” Campbell said. “We got each other’s back. I feel that we can do anything we want to accomplish as long as we got each other’s back.”

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Any doubt Arundel boys basketball would win the county championship on Saturday vanished every time a Wildcat stole the ball away and careened towards the basket.

Spurts of skill and athleticism from Meade paled in comparison to the Wildcats’ unwavering stability. They showcased their speed and accuracy against a team no Anne Arundel team could conquer this season, bringing home the county championship hardware, 69-51.

Arundel (14-3) celebrated, a little. But as they embraced the championship plaque, the Wildcats’ sights already turned to the future. Both teams knew going in they’re likely to see one another a third time, in the region championships on March 2, should all go well in the playoffs.

“The battle of 175 continues,” Arundel coach Rodney Ramsey said.

This is Arundel’s first boys basketball county title since 2012, making it an emotional one for Ramsey. Ten years ago, Ramsey served under coach Jeff Starr in their county championship win, a title helped brought on by two players who are no longer here.

“It’s emotional because I reflect back onto that time, and those guys,” Ramsey said. “For me, it’s a healing process, to get back to here and to be able to accomplish what we accomplished.”

The Arundel players honored those memories as well as this new memory with grace. They embody the spirit their coach pressed into them: each day is not promised. There’s more to life than basketball. If they’d lost, Ramsey said, it would’ve been taken well because all that mattered was that they got to play.

The captains take that message and remind their teammates every practice and every game.

“Every game is a big game. Every game is going to change the future,” said captain Karris Scott, who lit up the floor with 22 points. “I like to say: ‘Humble Arundel.’”

Meade coach Mike Glick knows people forget how young his team is sometimes. It’s easy to do that when a team goes unbeaten in the county in the regular season. How they’ll fare in the playoffs depends on how they respond.

“We’ll have a few days off to reset,” he said. “The mark is going to be through the next week of practice: are they going to be able to go to another level?”

Both teams struggled early; erratic passing led to wild turnovers. Someone needed to settle down and for a minute, it seemed it would be Meade.

Cool and collected, junior Xavion Roberson (14 points) settled in, popped in a 3-pointer and his squad seemed to relax with him.

But soon, Arundel embraced its frenetic energy. Every Wildcat on the floor dropped baskets on Arundel’s 12-0 run, capitalizing off turnovers as the Mustangs tried, and failed, to match their foe’s energy. A 3-pointer from Arundel’s Elisha Williams had it 19-10 after one.

The tone had been set.

“We realized it wasn’t as chaotic as it may have seemed,” Scott said. “We just played through it.”

Meade’s problems became more obvious as they struggled against Arundel’s press. The Mustangs pride themselves on their passing, but on each second, third pass, the ball sputtered out of Meade hands and into the happy grip of whatever Wildcat was nearby. From there, Arundel players like Thomas Loughry and Deandre Johnson spirited away, drilling the transition basket before Meade could catch up.

At the same time, the Mustangs’ shots that normally found their mark just wouldn’t fall, for all except Andre Campbell.

The senior Mustang (20 points) battled through hordes of Wildcats, plucking every delicate ball and running it off for a layup. It’s how Meade kept close, while its perimeter game was off.

But one player wasn’t enough against five Wildcats. Everywhere Meade turned was a weapon in green and black, driving to the basket. Roberson awoke, found himself in open space and knocked down his second trey. But even so, the turnovers didn’t stop and Arundel rolled into halftime up 34-25.

Arundel celebrates with their championship plaque after beating Meade to win Saturday’s Anne Arundel County boys basketball championship game at South River High School.
Arundel celebrates with their championship plaque after beating Meade to win Saturday’s Anne Arundel County boys basketball championship game at South River High School. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)
Turnovers weren’t Meade’s only trouble: the Mustangs shot 11-for-20 from the foul line overall.

“I was most disappointed in our free-throw shooting,” Glick said. “Most of the time, we’re a pretty good free-throw-shooting team and we didn’t shoot the ball well at all. It’s huge when you can get into our press and get our defense set and maybe get a chance to get back into the game.”

Meade regrouped early in the second half. Shooters like Campbell, Bryson Spruell and Roberson moved with a fluid pace. For a moment, the gap dipped below 10 points, 43-34.

But while the Mustangs had to work on its issues, Arundel didn’t have much to fix.

Scott knocked down another 3-pointer. Loughry knocked down not one but two triples. It also helped to have Azim Sana, too, because when the 6-foot-7 senior wasn’t pawing down Meade shots, he was popping in putbacks — night and day from when Meade locked up the big in their previous meeting.

“I was in my head the last time,” Sana said. “I took it positively today and played well.”

With 3:49 left, Meade exploded out of the timeout with a fire previously unseen, but Noah Frayer immediately quashed that energy with a 3-pointer.

“We started the game tight. We missed shots we made all season long. But you can’t simulate this environment,” Glick said. “But I’d be surprised if the players didn’t grow from it.”

The Wildcats know Meade will use this as fuel, but they don’t feel afraid. After all, they bought in early, Ramsey said. It’s automatic now.

“They know the season starts over again. When we go into practice Tuesday, we’re 0-0,” Ramsey said.

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It’s worth checking the local hardware store, they might be out of buckets after Meade boys basketball used them all Monday night.

One game now separates the Mustangs and a perfect county record after Meade drilled 13 3-pointers to dispatch South River, 77-57, in Edgewater.

Good shooting comes from good passes, Mustangs coach Mike Glick said, and Meade had that in abundance Monday. The Seahawks (11-9) had success from beyond the arc too — hitting eight 3-pointers — but Meade’s checklist at the end of the night extended much further. Senior Bryson Spruell and juniors Xavion Roberson and Shawn Jones all scored 16 points.

“We’re shooting the ball a lot better. We had 13 3-pointers a couple games ago,” Glick said. “I’m really impressed.”

Barring a loss on Wednesday, this will be Meade’s best county record since 2015, when the Mustangs (16-2 overall, 16-0 county) also went 16-0. Meade plays Glen Burnie Wednesday before Saturday’s county championship against either Broadneck or Arundel.

There isn’t much more Glick wants to see from his team — just more and more of it.

“We got punched in the mouth against [City],” Glick said. “It brought us back to reality. And since then, we’ve responded with a lot of intensity. Our biggest thing is not to worry so much about the other team but to worry about ourselves.”

That isn’t just coach-speak, either — the Mustangs embody the sentiment.

“We’re just disciplined in practice,” Roberson said. “We just keep working hard. Keep staying together, not get big-headed. We know [the county championship] will be a tough game.”

There was never a moment Meade didn’t have control. It took Andre Campbell literally all of two seconds to flick his wrist and score.

It’s difficult to comprehend that Meade sheltered one of its best players in the wings for a good chunk of the season — understandably so, as Campbell nursed injuries, first an ankle, then a finger. But Campbell let everyone know now: after his brisk opening layup, Campbell joined Roberson and Spruell in firing a combined six 3-pointers and push Meade ahead in the first.

“I think now he feels 100% and I think Xavion and Andre are two very hard kids to guard in the back-court, so they play off each other very well,” Glick said.

Meade’s Bryson Spruell, shooting over South River’s Treshaun Timmons on Monday, had 16 points in the 77-57 win over the Seahawks in Edgewater.

The Seahawks might’ve been completely lost if not for Blake Burrows. Burrows blazed like a one-man team, popping in a pair of perimeter shots and punching through a cloud of Mustangs to score again. His work seemed to inspire his teammates Cash Herndon and Jeremy Berger and together with Meade, the two teams swapped seven back-to-back 3-pointers out of 11 in the quarter.

That aspect didn’t please Glick very much, who felt his defense could’ve stepped up and not allowed South River to run its game plan so easily. The Mustangs reverted to a triangle-and-two defense, mostly revolving around two Seahawks at any given time.

Roberson knocked down a shot as time expired for a 24-17 lead.

It became a question of who wasn’t going to hit one from downtown. Meade junior forward Kyree Scott joined the club in the second, even as the perimeter became an arid landscape.

But as triples became more scarce, Meade still got to work. Now double digits separated the two as Meade’s shooters made the post their home and solidified a 42-28 edge at the half.

That happened just as the end of the first did, but this time, Scott took the role, taking a chance from outside.

“We know anyone on the team can score,” Roberson said.

Even as Meade buried South River deeper in the earth, that success didn’t rid them of frustration. As fouls mounted, the Mustangs played more and more annoyed. Still, they kept to their marks; most of the Seahawks’ scoring came when Burrows or Herndon slipped loose of their guard or drew the attention to free up the other.

Never did Meade implode: Roberson said their coaches condition them to steel themselves against calls they don’t like in practice so that come game-time, they don’t get too upset about them.

And it all comes down to what makes Meade good — outside of pure athleticism, of course.

“We stay together as a team,” Spruell said. “We don’t let that get us down.”

Up 60-41 after three, the Mustangs cruised. New faces, such as freshman Jaisean Kenner, got in on the 3-point action.

“It’s a good win for us against a really good team,” Glick said. “The goal is just to keep getting better.”