Aberdeen High boys basketball coach Bill Jones knows his team hasn’t had to deal with much adversity throughout most of the 2023 portion of its schedule. Saturday, the Eagles received it, with interest, down double-digits early in front of a rabid crowd at Wilde Lake in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
The Eagles stayed calm and composed, and their championship dream remains. No. 14 Aberdeen rallied for an 82-76 victory over the 15th-ranked Wildecats in Columbia. Darion Parris scored 23 points for Aberdeen, and senior Tylan Bass contributed 18.
The UCBAC champion Eagles (22-4 overall) methodically erased a 17 point-deficit and made the plays down the stretch to gain their first state Final Four berth since 2005. Aberdeen will play No. 3 City in a state 3A semifinal, Tuesday or Wednesday, at a site to be determined.
The undefeated Knights needed a fourth quarter push to eliminate Centennial in a 3A quarterfinal in Baltimore City.
The degree of difficulty was much greater for Aberdeen, playing against the Howard County champ Wilde Lake, riding the emotions of its first league title in five decades and a huge overtime win in Thursday’s region final round.
“We haven’t been punched much this year,” Jones said. “Actually I liked the intensity they had.”
The Wildecats (21-4) punched early and strong. Getting out in transition along with solid jump shooting, Wilde Lake led 18-2 before the Eagles and their faithful barely got comfortable in their seats.
It was 25-8 after Nathan Hiteshew fought through a packed paint to finish a strong layup. Behind the explosive trio of Hiteshew, Kain Corkeron and Xavier Gilliam, Wilde Lake maintained a double-digit advantage into the second half as Aberdeen slowly crept back into contention.
“Not going to lie, we thought it was no chance, but coach said ‘keep fighting,’” said Parris.
Trailing 51-40, the Eagles went into full-blast attack mode. Paris connected from deep. Kenny Hunter scored. Rodgers made it to the free throw line. Artarus Brown and Hunter hit layups.
Just like that, the game was tied at 51. Bass gave Aberdeen its first lead, 53-51, with his basket. After a Wilde Lake timeout, Hunter and Parris scored, completing a 17-0 surge.
The Eagles never trailed again, withstanding several Wilde Lake pushes in the fourth. Parris, whose 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter soothed Aberdeen, erupting the team’s supporters in the stands with a monster dunk in transition.
Hiteshew and Gilliam finished with 25 and 23 points, respectively for Wilde Lake, which won its first Howard County title since 1978. Thursday, the Wildecats defeated Long Reach in overtime in the East Region final.
Wilde Lake, looking to advance to its first state Final Four since 1994, had the momentum early Saturday.
“Getting the ball inside,” Wildecats coach Jay McMillan said. “We got some turnovers. We got the ball in to Xavier, able to make some open looks with Kain and Nate. It really sparked us.”
It wasn’t enough, however, as Aberdeen extended its winning streak to 15.
“We kept fighting. We ended up playing good,” said Parris.
Now, the Eagles are two wins away from their state championship since 2000.
“We’re going to enjoy this win,” Jones said. “We’re going to go to practice on Monday, have fun and start focusing on our next round.”
CLASS 3A STATE QUARTERFINAL
NO. 14 ABERDEEN 78, NO. 15 WILDE LAKE 72
Aberdeen - Tylan Bass 18, Tyseaun Rodgers 16, Artarus Brown 8, Darion Parris 23, Kenny Hunter 13. Totals 30 11-18 78.
Wilde Lake - Noah Brazil 4, Michael David 6, Dylan Gooden 3, Nathan Hitshew 25, Kain Corkeron 11, Xavier Gilliam 23. Totals 30 6-10 72.
Aberdeen 18 19 24 17 — 78
Wilde Lake 29 18 12 13 — 72