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COLLEGE PARK – Kaylen Vines laid on the ground, motionless for five seconds following the end of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 1A state semifinals at the Xfinity Center on March 14.
The senior guard for the Frederick Douglass High School boys basketball team had brought his team back from an eight-point deficit, and with 18.9 seconds remaining in the game, he was poised to get the ball to his center, Abdul Samb, for the game-tying basket.
Midway through his dribble, the ball bounced off his knee, turning the play into a loose scramble.
Trying to improvise, Vines rushed for the loose ball and passed it to sophomore Mike Woods, standing ready for a corner 3-point attempt. The senior fell down after the pass and watched the shot soar before bouncing off the rim as time expired.
“We were trying to get the ball to Abdul, but it did not work out the way we wanted to,” Vines said. “I caught the ball, lost it a little bit and found Mike, so I tried to hit him in the corner and hoped it went in.”
“(Woods) is a kid who can make that shot,” Head Coach Tyrone Massenburg said. “… He was in the game for a reason and if he takes that shot again, who knows but we can live and die with him taking that shot.”
Despite having four players score in double-figures and outscoring their opponents for three quarters, Douglass’ dreams of winning its first state championship since 1966 were dashed as they lost a tight-knit state semifinal affair against Lake Clifton, 58-56.
The devastating loss in the final seconds signaled the end of a successful turnaround season for Douglass (22-5).
With four players on the starting lineup being sophomores and juniors, the Eagles earned the best record within the 1A/2A/3A region of Prince George’s County and won their first regional championship in 10 years on March 8.
“I felt like we were ready,” Vines said. “We were excited to come into this game, and in practice, we were hyped while the school was putting up banners, congratulating us. We just felt good coming into this game, and we could have come out with the W.”
The Eagles flew to a lead early thanks in large part to two consecutive 3-pointers, pushing Douglass to an early 8-2 run. However, the Lakers (23-5) fought back with senior forward Armon Harried scoring 16 of his game-high 27 points in the first half. The 6-foot-4 senior battled with the Douglass defense all night to keep Lake Clifton in the contest.
Things got easier for the Baltimore City-based squad as Douglass missed shots and were unable to convert on second-chance opportunities, scoring only nine points in the second quarter. Junior Michael Grey took advantage, contributing 11 of his final 21 points for the Lakers during the period. Douglass entered the halftime break down by eight points.
The Eagles regrouped with Vines leading the charge in the second half. The veteran players muscled his way through defenders to score six third-quarter points while on defense, as Douglass tried to limit Grey and Harried’s impact with double-teams. The set-up was working as Douglass was down by one point late in the third quarter and entered the final period with only a six-point deficit.
“I appreciate the fight that we had,” Massenburg said. “We were down eight a couple of times but we never gave up, and as a coach, that is all you can ask for.”
Samb, the Eagles’ 6-foot-8 center, resurrected late, contributing seven points in the fourth quarter. An eight-point run followed which included two free throws off a technical foul and a 3-point play by Vines that reduced Douglass’ deficit down to one with 2:18 remaining.
The game turned into a battle of free-throws with both teams trading the lead at the dying moments. Harried commanded the rest of the game for Lake Clifton as he converted four of his six final free-throws while senior Jermaine Tiggle added four points late in the quarter to give the Lakers a two-point lead in the dying moments of the contest.
Harried and Gray finished the game combining for 48 of Lake Clifton’s final 58 points.
“It was a battle, an expected battle,” Lakers Head Coach Herman Harried said. “Douglass (was) good and they are extremely well-coached. I knew they would be prepared, and it was a game that was expected. And I was hoping that we were prepared to weather the storm.”
Massenburg said it was hard to think about the future following the heartbreaking loss. Several Douglass players fell to their knees after the final buzzer while others lifted up Vines, who laid motionless on the ground near center court.
While it was a missed opportunity to put his name in the Eagle record books, Vines said the experience of playing the state semifinals was far more important for his younger teammates and will serve them best heading into next season.
“I hope my man (junior Darnell Snowden) becomes a leader next year and they come out and dominate,” Vines said. “Next year, they can win it all with the schedule they have so I hope they come out and play. I am confident that they are going to do well next year.”