The last time Glen Burnie senior forward Tony Sherrod led his team to a championship, he was 13 years old, playing in a county recreation league in Baltimore.
It didn't compare to what he did Friday.
Sherrod scored a season-high 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, leading the Gophers, 70-69, over previously undefeated Thomas Johnson in the Class 4A East Region championship. Coach Mike Rudd called the game "the biggest win in Glen Burnie basketball history."
The Gophers, in the state tournament for the first time since 1994 and fourth time in school history, will face Magruder at 7 tonight at the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland in the Class 4A state semifinal game.
"Last year I was playing behind four starters," said Sherrod, who improved his average from three points per game last year to 12 this season. "It was their year. Now the torch has been passed to me, and I get to show what I can do. . . . It was great. It was in their house; everyone was there; I almost cried."
Glen Burnie was the only county boys' team to survive a region final; Annapolis lost in overtime, 73-72, to Friendly, and Southern fell, 81-64, to Central. The Gophers wanted desperately to prove Anne Arundel County basketball can hang with the elite programs in the area. On Sunday afternoon, Rudd still had the game ball in his hand.
"It was just crazy," said Rudd, who was an assistant coach when Glen Burnie played in the state tournament in 1994. "The kids were getting mobbed. The Thomas Johnson players were laying on the floor. They were stunned. They couldn't believe it. The Comcast Center chant was going on and on . . . . It was just unbelievable. The bus ride home was an hour and a half, but it felt like15 minutes."
No. 9 Magruder (21-3) defeated Springbrook, 58-48, for its third straight region title Saturday and enters tonight's contest on a 10-game winning streak. The Colonels are led by junior guard Brandon Giles, who is averaging 13 points per game.
Magruder Coach Dan Harwood knows little about the Gophers other than what his assistants brought back from scouting them against Thomas Johnson. The Colonels are more familiar with the Patriots -- Thomas Johnson eliminated Magruder in the state semifinal round last year, and Harwood was expecting a rematch.
"We know Thomas Johnson is a great team," said Harwood, whose team defeated Arundel for the state title two years ago and finished 27-0. "For [Glen Burnie] to go up there and win that, they must have a great team. I know they have a good guard and a big man."
That "good guard," junior Mitch Guest, is one of the biggest reasons the Gophers extended their season. He averaged 27.3 points, 6.3 assists and 7 rebounds through the 4A East Region tournament. Glen Burnie breezed by C. Milton Wright behind Guest's 35 points, and he led them with 30 in the semifinal against Frederick. And he scored 17 points Friday and added seven assists, despite being double-teamed for a majority of the championship game.
"We had a senior-oriented team last year," said Guest, who made 4 of 4 free throws in the final 18 seconds Friday. "I was just trying to fit in and do what Coach asked me. My role this year is more as a leader and more of scorer. I feel like I did something special. Everyone was counting us out in the beginning, but we knew we were good as a team from Day One. We just had to put it together."
The Annapolis boys weren't as fortunate, missing three chances in the final 14 seconds in the 3A East Region final at Friendly. The Panthers start next season without seniors Josh Johnson and Laronja Owens and junior Darius Johnson, who is leaving for Fork Union Military Academy because he is 19 years old and will be ineligible for county play next season.
"It's typical Annapolis," Coach John Brady said of this year's talented seniors. "The names change, but the tradition stays the same, and the competitiveness stays the same. We had a great year, any way you cut it."
For Thomas Johnson Coach Tom Dickman, the winningest public school coach in state history with 593 victories in 29 seasons, high school basketball is officially over; he will coach the men's program at Division III Hood College in the fall.