GREENBELT – March Madness officially began Wednesday night as the Bowie High School Bulldogs overcame a slow start to upset the top-seeded Eleanor Roosevelt Raiders in the second round of the 4A South Regional playoffs. In the waning moments of the contest Bowie senior point guard Christian Bryant wanted to control the tempo and do whatever […]
GREENBELT – March Madness officially began Wednesday night as the Bowie High School Bulldogs overcame a slow start to upset the top-seeded Eleanor Roosevelt Raiders in the second round of the 4A South Regional playoffs.
In the waning moments of the contest Bowie senior point guard Christian Bryant wanted to control the tempo and do whatever he could to control the outcome. Bryant went to the line three times with his team in the double bonus in the last 45 seconds and connected on five of six free throws in the late stages to secure a 49-46 upset victory over the host Raiders, propelling the Bulldogs to the region semifinals.
Bowie (16-7) trailed after the first quarter but came back to take the lead before halftime. The Bulldogs attempted to increase their in the second half but each time they appeared to gain a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter, the Raiders (26-3) clawed back into contention.
But Bryant, his teammates and coaches knew the county champions would not go away quietly. After Bowie’s Quinton Drayton made a short jumper and then added two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 44-39 lead, Roosevelt countered with baskets from Ismael Jabbie and Naji Marshall to get close.
However, Bryant got the ball back in his hands and waited to get fouled. With 39 seconds remaining, Bryant hit two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 46-41 lead. Then after Jabbie made another layup, Bryant made one of two free throws with 16 seconds left for a 47-43 lead. Marshall then followed with a 3 -pointer to trim the Bulldogs’ lead to 47-46. But after being fouled again, Bryant went back to the line and promptly sank two free throws with 1.9 seconds left that sealed the verdict for the upstart Bulldogs.
“We work on free throws every day in practice,” Bryant said. “So for me it was just like business as usual. I wanted the ball in my hands late in the game. I knew that I could make the free throws. It was a total team effort. We started slow, but we really played well in the second half. Now we’ll see who we get next.”
Bowie will next face defending 4A state champion Dr. Henry A. Wise High School, which slipped past Charles H. Flowers, 36-32, in one of the other region quarterfinals on Wednesday. Northwestern and DuVal also won their quarterfinals on Wednesday and will meet in the other region semifinal contest. Those games were originally slated for Thursday, but inclement weather postponed those contests.
“We just never let up,” said Drayton, who led the Bulldogs with 18 points in the victory. “This was a big win for me, personally. I was only on junior varsity last year. So for being my first year on varsity and being able to beat Roosevelt was great. It was a great game. I’m glad that Christian took the ball those last possessions. I knew he would make the free throws. He’s always been clutch for us.”
Bowie coach Cedric Holbrook needed several moments to regain his composure after the game, wiping his brow repeatedly after leaving the locker room. Bowie has been one of the forgotten squads in the county over the past two decades, often viewed as underachievers during the postseason. But this Bulldogs’ squad looks poised to change that perception.
“We fell behind [17-9] early, but it wasn’t a big deficit,” Holbrook said. “A lot of times when we play them we dig ourselves into a big hole and then we can’t come back. But tonight I thought we did a good job in the second quarter and then in the second half. Down the stretch, we just kept fighting. Quinton hit some big shots and Christian made some big free throws. To be able to beat a team like Roosevelt that is one of the true benchmark teams in the state is a big, big win for our program.”
Roosevelt coach Brendan O’Connell was hard-pressed to explain what happened to his squad. Roosevelt had earned the top seed in the region tournament by winning all but one game against county opponents and then took the first steps toward a possible state title by defeating Largo 57-50 in the Prince George’s County championship game. But one simple stat may have spelled the Raiders’ demise on Wednesday – Roosevelt players went just 5-19 from the free-throw line, including an inexplicable 1-10 in the second half.
“It seemed like we were able to execute, but we just didn’t make shots,” O’Connell said. “I kept thinking at some point the lid would come off the basket. I can’t fault anyone or anything. Our kids fought hard the whole game. But you have to give Bowie credit. They just made more plays than we did tonight. I still think it was a successful season. I mean we won the league title and we won the county championship, so I think a lot of teams could be happy with that.”
Roosevelt opened the game quickly, racing to a 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. But the Bulldogs exploded for 21 points in the second quarter to forge a 30-28 lead at the intermission. Bowie’s defensive effort and Roosevelt’s offensive woes peaked in the third quarter when the Bulldogs gradually stretched the lead to 38-32 by limiting the Raiders to only four points in the frame.