FORESTVILLE — Kenneth Womack stood all alone at the 3-point line late in the fourth quarter, poised to give Bishop McNamara High School the momentum it desperately needed to close out a three-game home stretch with a win.
After climbing back from a 14-point hole earlier in the second half against conference foe Bishop O’Connell High School, the Mustangs were clinging to a late lead with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Knights had just cut the deficit to 58-57 on the previous possession, and the Mustangs’ double-digit comeback was dangerously close to slipping away from them.
Womack gave his team exactly what it needed. His high-arching three fell through the net with a satisfying swish, extending the lead to four and further from the Knights’ reach.
Womack scored five of the Mustangs’ final eight points and had a game-high 16, leading his team to a 66-64 win on Feb. 2.
“He’s a dog, man,” Mustangs Head Coach Keith Veney said of Womack. “He’s the heart and soul of our team. We go how he goes.”
The win helped Bishop McNamara (16-8, 9-6) get past a two-game losing streak and back to its winning ways. The Mustangs followed up a 15-point victory against Our Lady of Good Counsel High School with an 86-50 blowout to DeMatha and a heartbreaking 50-45 loss to Bishop Ireton High School.
Womack’s late success helped the Mustangs avoid losing three consecutive games, but his teammates had to earn their second-half comeback while the junior guard was going through a slump.
After drawing a foul on a 3-pointer that would have given the Mustangs back the lead, Womack missed all of his free throws and then missed an easy layup on the following McNamara possession.
Womack said he was frustrated because he knew those free throws were crucial.
“It was hurting me,” he said. “I got pulled out at that point, and I had a chance to reset myself. Coach (Veney) believed in me.”
While Womack was on the bench, Veney had a simple message for him.
“I told him (the play) was over,” Veney said. “I said, ‘Let it go, grow up.’”
The message worked for Womack, and shortly after he checked back into the game, he hit his fourth three-pointer of the game and knocked down two free throws.
“I believed in the three today,” Womack said.
Womack was one of two Mustang players to finish with double figures. Senior Mekhi Long had 14 points, scoring at least one field goal in each quarter. Favour Arie, a 6-foot-11 freshman, had eight points before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
For the Knights, sophomore Brayon Freeman led the team with 15 points, shooting 6-of-7 from the free throw line. Junior Marcus Dockery added 13 points and made all six of his free throws, while senior Charles Weber had 11 points.
After an 8-0 run gave the Mustangs a 34-32 lead at halftime, the Knights outscored Bishop McNamara 7-5 to tie the game at 39. It was then that three turnovers from the Mustangs fueled the Knights to go on a 14-0 run, highlighted by Freeman drawing a foul on a 3-pointer that fell through.
“These guys can play,” Veney said of the Knights. “If we turned it over or threw the ball away, that’s a shot, a three-pointer or a layup for them. We say a turnover is a layup on the other end, and that’s what they did.”
From that point on, though, the Mustangs outscored the Knights 27-11. Immediately after Freeman’s four-point play, Smith scored a wide-open layup that sparked a 10-0 run.
Veney said his team needed an easy play like that to get to get back on track.
“We needed to see the ball go through the rim. After that, they had the belief that we weren’t out of it.”
The Knights had a brief chance to score at least a game-tying field goal when they intercepted an inbound pass from the Mustangs. But Womack responded with an interception of his own, giving the ball back to the Mustangs and sealing the game.
“We just all stick together and stay aggressive,” Womack said. “We use our chemistry, we fight on defense. Coach told us to buckle down, and we pulled it out.”