ROCKVILLE – Sophomore guard Ryan Cornish was ice cold all night, but with the score tied at 53-all he streaked into open space and received an outlet pass from senior Djordje Orcev and unfurled a running jump-shot to secure a tight victory and a MPSAA 4A West sectional title.
“I’m not going into a second overtime,” Cornish said defiantly on his game-winner, “I know I had to get that win and I had to make that layup.”
Richard Montgomery High School and Gaithersburg High School needed overtime
before they could determine the winner of the boys 4A West sectional final. The Rockets ended up the winners, 55-53 despite an off night from almost all of their major players. Cornish led all scorers with 20 points, Orcev contributed 11 points, and junior Devin Liyanamana rounded the Rockets out with 10 points. The Trojans were led by sophomore Jao wing Ituka, sophomore Mandela Tark, and sophomore forward Jordan Hawkins, who scored 17 points, 12 points, and 10 points respectively.
“This is what high school basketball is all about,” Head coach David Berslaw said, “ I love that we have this with Gaithersburg, I love how we’re going back and forth. I just love what us and Gaithersburg are creating.”
Gaithersburg was able to play their style of basketball all night, crashing the boards, and imposing their will physically throughout the night. Meanwhile, the Rockets couldn’t finish at the rim, their jump-shots clanked frequently, but their defense was outstanding. The Rockets game-plan of pressing full-court, as well as using a 2-3 zone and double-teaming Ituka And Hawkins whenever they had the ball up top worked to perfection. The aggressive trapping scheme helped the Rockets to force double-digit turnovers, while also forcing the ball out of their star sophomore wings.
The staunch defensive performance also helped on a night when the biggest lead was only a five-point lead by the Trojans. The low scoring affair afforded the Rockets a path to be able to fight back slowly, taking their third lead of the night when Cornish drained a long pull-up for 2, giving RM a 41-40 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Trojans nearly pulled a victory when they took a three-point leAd late in the fourth with a minute to go, but Liyanamana answered the ball scoring on a fast break layup, and then fed Orcev for a game-tying layup off a botched out-of-bounds play.
“ I just had to step up,” Liyanamana said, “ we know not everyone’s going to score 20 points every game. We’re a very balanced team everybody can play their role and know what to do.”
In overtime it was the Cornish show, scoring all six of the Rockets points. Despite being off the mark with his jump-shot all night, it was a pair of free-throws that gave him the confidence to drain that aforementioned buzzer beater.