Gilman senior Cyrus Jones has had a sensational high school athletic career, but even he may not have imagined the fairly tale ending which presented itself to the future University of Alabama football star at the end of Sunday’s MIAA B Conference basketball championship game, at UMBC.
With just seconds to play and his team leading 67-60, Jones was all alone on the offensive end of the court and his teammates found him, allowing all the world to see his sensational athleticism. The 5-foot-10 Jones soared to the rim with the ease of a much taller player and deposited a two-handed jam which served as an exclamation point to the Greyhounds 69-62 win over 15th ranked St. Vincent Pallotti.
Jones finished the contest with a game-high 22 points, including 14 in the second half, to help Gilman win its third B Conference crown and its first since 2004-05. Fellow senior Ryan Ripken, who has started on the varsity at Gilman with Jones since the pair came in as freshmen, also had a big game, scoring 21 points, and junior Ben Grace had a big fourth quarter during his 17 point effort.
“That’s a great way to end my career. I’m glad to say a dunk was my last play forever, so it’s a great way to cap it off,” said Jones.
Gilman (22-6) led most of the way, but it was a battle throughout. Jones started slow, but Ripken picked up the slack in the opening half when he scored 17 points. Grace scored eight in the final quarter, including a huge three-pointer to ignite a 9-0 Gilman run. In that stretch, Grace also added a pair of free throws as the Greyhounds stretched their lead from 50-46 to 59-46.
“They (Pallotti) were really helping off on Cyrus and Ryan, so I was open and they did a great job of getting me the ball. Towards the end we all hit our foul shots. Just a terrific season,” said Grace.
Pallotti (24-7) got as close as 65-60 with 56.1-seconds to play, but Gilman closed out its title run with one free throw each from Grace and Jones and then Jones’ dunk.
In the opening quarter, Pallotti struggled getting shots to fall. Gilman’s shooting was not crisp early, either, but the Greyhounds turned a 10-5 lead into an 18-5 advantage with a layup by Jones and back-to-back three-pointers from Ripken. Pallotti turned the tide with three points at the end of the quarter and opened the second quarter with a 15-3 spurt to take a 24-23 lead with 5:38 to play in the opening half. Langston Burnett and JaCarl Smith both drained three-pointers during the charge and Marcus Scott added a pair of hoops.
“We got off to a good start, but we knew Pallotti would come back. They are a great team and they were going to rise to the challenge,” said Ripken of Pallotti’s second quarter rally. “We’ve been there before and I just told the guys to stay calm and keep playing. We just wanted to come out strong in the final 16 minutes and leave here with no regrets.”
Early in the third quarter, Pallotti was within two, at 35-33, but Jones scored two quick buckets, which were followed by two free throws and a basket by Ripken. The mini surge gave Gilman a 43-33 lead and it held a 48-40 advantage at the end of three quarters.
Baskets by Scott and Jamar White got the Panthers within four early in the fourth quarter. A basket by Gilman’s Kareem Montgomery was followed by a pair of free throws from White to keep the spread at four. That is when Grace got hot, however, as the former Cardinal Gibbons sharp-shotter squared for a long three which started the run which all but put the Greyhounds over the top.
Nine different Panthers scored in the contest, led by 13 from senior William Lyle and 11 from Scott.
The two teams split a pair of regular season meetings and finished with identical 16-2 league records. Gilman won a coin flip for the top seed and claimed the championship with a victory in the rubber match, Sunday.
(Stories taken from official MIAA release. In Sunday’s C Conference title game St. John’s beat Indian Creek.)