There was a stretch Saturday when it looked as ifninth-ranked Thomas Stone might win its first state title in 40 years. The Cougars had closed the first half with a flourish, then center Brelin Elliott continued his strong play to start the third quarter by making a jumper in the lane that gave Stone an 11-point lead.

Even more important, Aquille Carr, Patterson’s near-legendary junior point guard, was in foul trouble. After losing in the state final twice in the past four seasons, the Cougars and their fans could entertain the notion of a championship.

Slowly, though, the lead slipped away. Carr finished with 28 points and senior guard Devin Hebron scored all of his 23 points in the second half to send Thomas Stone to an 86-75 loss in the Maryland 3A title game before 5,000 at Comcast Center.

“Every year is different, each team is different — I can honestly say [most people] . . . probably didn’t think this band of guys would ever get this far,” Thomas Stone Coach Dale Lamberth said. “No one likes to lose. . . . All in all, you’re always close, but you can’t win it if you aren’t here.”

Thomas Stone (25-2) used balanced scoring throughout the playoffs and had plenty of stellar performances Saturday. Emeka Mbakwe led the Cougars with 18 points, Michael Briscoe had 15, Elliott scored 14 and Brandon Stewart added 10 off the bench.

Even after seeing its 45-34 lead dwindle, it seemed the elusive state title was within reach for Thomas Stone. The fourth quarter started with Carr heading to the bench after picking up his fourth foul. Then Stewart made two free throws and Briscoe passed to Devin Mainor for a jumper from the left wing that gave the Cougars a 64-61 lead.

With less than seven minutes remaining, Patterson (21-7) called timeout and Carr hustled back onto the court. Leonard Livingston then made one of his 11 blocks and Carr went coast-to-coast for a 68-64 lead. Minutes later, Carr had one of his six steals, went the length of the court and passed to Livingston for an alley-oop dunk, Carr’s eighth assist.

“I think I sat in this same seat last year and cried,” said Carr, whose Clippers lost to North Point last year in the 4A final (they were reclassified to 3A this season). Saturday, he was wearing a celebratory net around his neck during a postgame news conference. “It feels great knowing I don’t have to cry. I’m speechless right now. It hasn’t hit me yet.”

Complete state tournament coverage at

Playoff brackets

Maryland 4A boys | Maryland 4A girls

Maryland 3A boys | Maryland 3A girls

Maryland 2A boys | Maryland 2A girls

Virginia A Division 2 boys | Virginia A Division 2 girls

Virginia AAA girls