Severna Park boys basketball coach Pete Young saw the Falcons win plenty of important playoff games in his 24 years as an assistant to coach Pete Pellicani.
None of them, however, had the importance to Young as Severna Park’s Class 4A quarterfinal Friday night against visiting Leonardtown of St. Mary’s County.
It was the first postseason game for Young as head coach, and the Falcons (12-10) delivered.
Junior guard/forward Liam Cleary helped Severna Park overcome a poor start and scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Falcons to a 44-36 victory over Leonardtown (9-12).
The contest kind of felt like a championship game to Young.
“There were a lot of butterflies,” Young admitted. “When we were 5-9 this year before we went on a run, I would have never dreamed of us having a home playoff game. To win this playoff game was amazing.”
Severna Park advances to play host South River (12-6) in a region semifinal on Tuesday.
The Falcons will look for revenge after South River – riding a five-game winning streak --thumped Young’s team, 59-35, in early January.
“South River is a phenomenal team,” the coach explained. “They are athletic, shot the ball well and they are disciplined. That’s a dangerous combination. We have to play really well.”
Young hopes his team gets off to a better start against South River than they did against Leonardtown.
Severna Park went scoreless for the first 5:20 as Leonardtown jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
The Raiders boosted their margin to 13-6 with 1:20 remaining in the period on point guard Landon Windell’s three-point play.
Leonardtown led 15-9 at the end of the first quarter.
“We got great looks, but we weren’t knocking the shots down,” Young said of his team’s slow start. “We missed some layups in the paint.”
Then the momentum started to turn Severna Park’s way. The Falcons hit three consecutive 3-pointers. Point guard Owen Muldoon started the stretch, then Brandon Abell sank a 3-pointer and Cleary finished the string with another one to make it 15-15 with 3:30 to go in the second period.
Cleary tied it at 20-20 when he made a layup in the final seconds of the half.
Midway through the third quarter, Leonardtown received a blow when Windell picked up his fourth foul. He immediately went to the bench. He ended up sitting out for about eight minutes and finished with a team-high 11 points.
The Raiders left 24-20 when he departed.
“Losing our point guard really impacted us negatively,” Leonardtown coach Ged Barber said. “In the last five games, he had been scoring 19 points a game.”
Severna Park took advantage and went on a 9-2 run to take a 33-26 lead — the score at the end of the third quarter. Abell (10 points) capped the spurt with a layup.
The Falcons took control in the fourth quarter and pushed their lead to 38-27 with 6:12 remaining.
Muldoon (four points), Cole Rodgers (five), Rian Sherwin (four) and Upton Young (four) accounted for the remainder of Severna Park’s scoring.
“In the second half, we stayed with what got us the same looks and we just hit more shots,” Pete Young said.
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