The fourth-quarter clock at University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center ticked below three minutes Friday, and nobody would have blamed the Gwynn Park boys’ basketball team if it went quietly into the College Park night. But these Yellow Jackets had a resolve few could match this winter, and it once again emerged at the end of the Maryland 2A state semifinals.
No. 8 Gwynn Park fell short of its first trip to the state final since 2010 in a 65-58 loss to New Town, but not before it showed the Baltimore Sun’s top-ranked team exactly how it got to this point.
Trailing by 14 points with less than three minutes to go, the Yellow Jackets nearly pulled off a shocking comeback with a full-court press that forced a succession of steals, ignited a 15-2 surge and put them in position to send the game into overtime.
Once two New Town foul shots left Gwynn Park down just 61-58, junior Justin Faison (15 points) let loose a three-pointer from the top of the key with 23 seconds left. The fans from Brandywine gasped, perhaps expecting it to go in considering the Yellow Jackets were just nine days removed from overcoming an 18-point deficit in the 2A South region semifinals against Douglass.
The ball sailed wide left, and New Town soon iced the game at the free throw line. But everybody involved couldn’t help but be impressed with the exciting finish Gwynn Park created.
“That comeback defines our team, defines our year,” Coach Mike Glick said.
The Yellow Jackets (24-3) were ultimately done in by poor free throw shooting and an inability to solve the 2-3 zone New Town (23-2) employed.
“Their length was the majority of the problem,” forward Isaiah Miles noted.
And yet Gwynn Park stayed close in the first half despite a poor shooting performance. It then briefly took the lead in the third quarter by creating turnovers and getting out on the fast break
But the Titans responded with a powerful 14-0 run that didn’t end until early in the fourth quarter. It provided the defending 2A state champions with just enough cushion late.
Senior Aaron Parker led Gwynn Park with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Miles also had a double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds), but “we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Faison said.
That, however, did little to dissuade Glick’s pride in what took place during the frantic final few minutes.
“One of the most resilient bunches I’ve coached in 23 years,” he said. “I’ve never been prouder of a team than I am of this team. Went out like champions. Just came up a possession or two short.”