COLLEGE PARK — Stunned.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet, [just] shocking,” Wise senior guard Michael Speight said after the No. 1 Pumas were shocked by No. 13 Quince Orchard in the Class 4A semifinal game on Thursday night at Xfinity Center, 55-53.
All season long No. 1 Wise completed victory after victory, highlighted by wins over private school powerhouses Rock Creek Christian and Riverdale Baptist, twice beating defending Class 4A state champions Eleanor Roosevelt and winning the Prince George’s County championship against No. 6 Douglass. The undefeated season was something special and unique in itself and the Wise community and team completely embraced it.
“We’ll understand soon the season wasn’t for no reason,” Wise forward Darron Barnes said, describing coach Rob Gardner’s postgame message. “We had a great season. Of course we didn’t finish like we wanted to, but I think 21-0, some big games, being ranked in the nation, this season was still great.”
From the second quarter on, the Cougars knew they would have to lean on patience and their fundamentals in order to win. Not only did they control tempo and the clock but they also won their battles on the defensive side of the ball. Thanks to their fundamental approach to the game, Quince Orchard wore down and frustrated a Pumas team that was more comfortable playing at a quicker pace.
“These kids will tell you, we take 45 minutes working on fundamentals everyday,” Quince Orchard coach Paul Foringer said. “They probably hate most of that because it’s boring basketball. We need to do that to beat teams like this we have to be a good fundamentally sound team.”
What the Cougars weren’t counting on was Barnes erupting for 18 of his game high 20 points in the second half. It was in the third quarter the senior forward finally able to broke free from the Cougars defense and getting the chance to attack the lane downhill. He was the primary ball handler throughout the third and fourth frame as the Pumas steadily mounted a comeback attempt, desperately trying to save their season.
“A little bit of desperation,” Barnes said about his second half outburst. “I wanted to win. The last two years I lost in the playoffs and haven’t gotten (to Xfinity Center), so it was pretty much much desperation. I wanted to win badly.”
The importance of his play is even more dramatic when you take into account that he scored eight of the Pumas 13 points in the third.
The only thing stopping Barnes from having a full on takeover was a charge taken by Quince Orchard’s Johnny Fierstein that negated a layup, which would’ve cut the lead to 44-41 with about four minutes left to go. When Yamon Robinson splashed a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer in the third quarter, making it 36-33, it looked like destiny was on the side of the Pumas.
And then when Speight hit the game tying 3, and Barnes hit a layup that gave Wise its first lead since they were up 10-8 in the first quarter, it appeared the Pumas wouldn’t be stopped in the handful of minutes that remained. Unfortunately, as soon as Wise took the lead, the Cougars answered, capitalizing on a Colin Crews charge that turned into a 3 for Crews that gave Quince Orchard a 48-46 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Wise never stopped fighting, however, and brought it to within one-point off another Robinson 3, but that was close as they would get. The game came down to the last two possessions of the game after Jake Feidelman sunk a pair of free throws to make it 55-52. Speight had more chance to tie the game, but the final shot of his high school career sailed wide right and the Quince Orchard celebration ensued soon after, ultimately sinking Wise’s run at perfection.