SPRINGDALE – In the waning stages of Friday evening’s contest, the Northwestern High School boys’ basketball team literally let victory through its grasp as host Charles H. Flowers rallied very late for a 73-70, overtime victory in a Prince George’s County 4A league game in Springdale. Northwestern (7-2 overall, 4-1 in the county 4A league) […]
SPRINGDALE – In the waning stages of Friday evening’s contest, the Northwestern High School boys’ basketball team literally let victory through its grasp as host Charles H. Flowers rallied very late for a 73-70, overtime victory in a Prince George’s County 4A league game in Springdale.
Northwestern (7-2 overall, 4-1 in the county 4A league) had arrived as one of the county’s genuine Cinderella teams this winter, owning a share of first-place with perennial power Eleanor Roosevelt. The Wildcats led throughout much of Friday’s game, owning an eight-point advantage twice during the third period and the visitors still held a six-point lead with 3:30 remaining in regulation.
But over the last three minutes of play, Flowers (8-1, 4-1) gradually chipped away at the lead and the Jaguars finally drew even when sophomore Alvin Cox hit a three-point field goal with 33 seconds left. When Northwestern guard Michael White drove to a bucket for a layup to give the Wildcats a 56-54 lead with 10 seconds left, the visitors looked destined for another county triumph.
Moments later White appeared to make the defensive play that sealed the verdict. While Flowers was looking for a bucket to tie the game or a three-pointer to win it, White intervened and stole the ball and then headed to the Wildcats’ bench in celebration. But White literally ran with the ball instead of dribbling it and was called for travelling, meaning the Jaguars had a second, brief life with 1.5 seconds left.
On the inbounds play, Flowers’ senior Ben Bullock lofted the ball toward Cox as he broke to the basket and Cox caught the pass in stride and converted on a layup that tied the game at the buzzer. He was also fouled on the play and went to the line with a chance to end the contest in regulation but missed, setting the stage for the four-minute overtime period.
During the initial stages of the overtime, the lead changed hands four times as Flowers’ senior Tyrik Campbell hit two free throws and made a bucket, while Bullock also scored for the Jaguars. A three-pointer by White gave the Wildcats a 59-58 lead and later a basket by David Belle put the visitors ahead, 61-60. But Campbell’s basket and then another pair of free throws gave the Jaguars a 64-61 lead they would not relinquish.
“On that last play, our senior [Bullock] got the ball to our sophomore [Cox] who made a good play to get open and make the layup,” said Flowers’ coach Antoine Gaither. “Then in the overtime, I just told the guys to stay focused and run the plays. It was a good win for us. When we got to the overtime, we got up and other than one or two buckets we led the whole time.”
Northwestern had led through the end of a sluggish first quarter, 9-6, and still owned a modest 28-24 lead at halftime and then took a 45-41 edge into the fourth quarter. But the Wildcats, despite buckets inside from Belle and plenty of range from White, who gave the Jaguars trouble with his dribbling and driving skills and also hit a three-pointer, could not put the game away over the last three minutes and even in the waning seconds when White had stolen the ball.
“He just made a mental mistake,” Northwestern coach Terrence Burke said of White. “He stole the game and then he thought the game was over. I did, too. I was surprised they put two seconds back on the clock. Even going into the overtime, I told the kids just to re-focus and get back to what we had been doing. It was a tough loss, but we’ll bounce back from it.”