Overtime Thriller Ends In Buzzer Beating Fashion

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.

St. John’s Stuns Defending WCAC Champs DeMatha

Darius Maddox told me post game ” odds against us I just knew we were gonna go out there and fight,” with Ish Leggett adding ” It’s that simple.” SJC is coming in primed with confidence and playing some great basketball ahead of tomorrow’s WCAC chip’ game

WASHINGTON D.C. – The WCAC descended once again on American University for their annual playoff to determine their conference champion this past weekend. After a long regular season, the final four teams remaining were DeMatha Catholic High School, Paul VI Catholic High School, Gonzaga College High School, and St. John’s College High School. The winners of these two games will advance to play for the championship on Monday.

The first game went down between number 1 seed of the tournament DeMatha, also the defending WCAC champs, and number 5 seed St. John’s. The Cadets secured the first spot in the WCAC championship game, upsetting the Stags 53-52. Forward Earl Timberlake led all scorers with 19 poins, and guard Justin Moore followed up with 15 points of his own. Guard Casey Morsell led three double-digit performance with 16 points, while Darius Maddox and Ishmael Leggett contributed with 12 points apiece.

“Definitely just coming out with energy, just coming out ready to kill,” Maddox said, “When I’m down then Ish is up, so we always got someone coming. Then when we’re both down then Casey is up so you never knew where it’s coming from.”

From the onset, the Cadets were able to throw the first punch. St. John’s was often the more physical squad, and made sure to force contested rebounds, catches, and shots. According to junior wings Darius Maddox and Ishmael Leggett, the Cadets took pride in being the underdog and coming out to fight, not just taking a punch to the mouth but landing frequent counters as well. The game was close throughout the contest, the largest lead of the night was the Stags by six, while the Cadets lead by a 4-point margin. The Cadets were able to grab the lead three times in the fourth quarter, after a Morsell layup to make it 41-40, and then off a forward Jalin Abbott 3-pointer off a Morsell pass in the pick-and-roll. The Stags responded swifty and took the lead off a Timberlake tip-in. The Cadets then reeled off a 7-0 run and grabbed a 51-47 lead they would not surrender when Maddox converted on an and-1 over center Hunter Dickinson. Timberlake cut the lead too 53-52 with a 3-pointer at the top of the key, responding to a  Morsell pull-up jumper from the free throw line. SJC had two chances to ice the game with less 30 seconds remaining with both Morsell and Abbott at the free throw line but both the seniors missed the front end of a one-in-one opportunity. DeMatha had one last chance to win the game, getting the ball to Moore who drove strong to the rim but Morsell leaped high in the air and swatted the would-be attempt way, sending Bender Arena in a frenzy and making sure a new champ would be crowned.

“We knew (Moore) was going to it,” Morsell said, “ We tried to make it as hard for him as possible, if he was going to shoot it, make him shoot going left. He’s shooting a way lower percentage going left than right. Forced him to my help side, I knew he was not going to pass it so that is why I went up to get it.”  

“Just a (wave) of happiness,” Leggett said, ” We been struggling throughout the season and all that hard work paid off that nobody saw it showed on the court today.”

Warriors Pursuit of Regular Season Greatness Led to Finals Collapse

The Golden State Warriors were transcendent all season long. They started the regular season off with a bang, winning 24 consecutive games, and rumbled on to a 73-9 regular season record. It seemed that this team didn’t flex their collective greatness unless they had. There were numerous times when teams like the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Oklahoma City Thunder each had the Warriors on the ropes. The only thing that these teams were missing was someone like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson. It only took one defensive stop or a turnover and they would go off on one of their explosive runs and miraculously win games they had no right to win. That’s what happens when you have two great players on a great team, you win games on your worse days. Having the first unanimous MVP, the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year, and several two-way players that can also score and take games over are also key ingredients to amassing the greatest regular season in NBA History.

The Warriors entered the playoffs as the clear favorite. In the first round they faced the Houston Rockets. It was a conference finals rematch from the season prior. Everything was going great in Game 1, until Curry twisted his ankle. Which just so happens to be the same ankle he had surgery on back in 2011. When he made his return 3 games later the unimaginable happened and he sprained his right knee. Now, not only is the Warriors organization panicking, but the Warriors fan base and the NBA as a whole. Not to worry though, as we all know by now, Curry made his triumphant return in late in the second round against the Portland Trail Blazers. In the Conference Finals was where Curry and the Warriors truly struggled, where they faced the Thunder, who were coming a great playoff series win against the San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors initially struggled against the Thunders massive length and elite athleticism and dug themselves into a 3-1 hole, creating more questions and rumors. Questions and rumors surrounding the health of MVP Stephen Curry due to his struggles. Draymond Green was even getting into trouble accumulating flagrant fouls points after kicking Steven Adams in the groin and playing a very physical series against the Thunder big men. The Warriors luckily completed a seemingly impossible task and came back against the Thunder thanks to their elite shooting. Although the Thunder was clearly the better team in the series, the Warriors were able to shoot themselves out of their hole and make it to their second straight NBA Finals.

In the NBA Finals we got another rematch, the Cleveland Cavaliers vs the Golden State Warriors. The first three games were complete blowouts, the Warriors taking a 2-1 series advantage. The Warriors looked stronger than ever, until catastrophe struck. First Draymond Green inadvertently hit LeBron James in the groin and they got into a heated conversation due to James attempting to step over him during play. This resulted in Green drawing a flagrant foul point, which was the last flagrant foul he could get without getting punished with a 1 game suspension. Secondly Andrew Bogut, the Warriors best rim-protector, went down with a season ending sprained knee. Despite winning the game the Warriors entered Game 5 with a lot of questions. Without their fiery leader game 5 and their rim protector for the rest of the series, the Warriors suffered an epic collapse that resulted in the Cavs becoming the first team in NBA Finals history to successfully come back from a 3-1 series deficit.

What was it that led to possibly the greatest collapse in NBA Finals history? The accumulation of fatigue, emotional and physical is what most likely did. At least that’s what most pundits and fans believe. It makes the most sense, too, as the Warriors most serious mistake ended up with them failing to defend their title. All season long the team claimed they didn’t care about beating the 95-96 Chicago Bulls’ regular season title, but clearly they did. That pursuit of the title of being the greatest regular season resulted in them clearly being on their last legs in the playoffs, running on fumes and feeling the fatigue and frustration of an incredibly taxing season and playoffs. It’s why Stephen Curry hurt his knee and ankle, noticeably showing the signs of those injuries in the Conference Finals and Finals. It was the reason Andre Bogut’s legged buckled on him and the big men went down with a knee injury, and why Andre Iguodala battled a back injury the last two games of the series. A word to the wise, and any team seeking regular season infamy, IT’S NOT WORTH IT. Look at these Golden State Warriors as proof that the regular season truly means nothing in the long term.