Having raced out to a 15-point halftime lead against Reservoir in the 3A East boys basketball regional championship game Friday, City College coach Daryl Wade cautioned his players during intermission that a second-half run was coming.
So, when the third quarter ended and the Knights’ lead had been trimmed to six, there was no panic in Wade’s voice as he delivered the message that it was time to buckle down and get back to playing “City basketball.”
“I’m not going to say we were unfazed by their run, but these guys are soldiers and they’ve been to war before,” Wade said. “We’ve been in tougher situations for the last three years now and this nucleus of kids has learned what it takes to fight through.
“It was the fourth quarter, that’s the money quarter, and that's what we practice for.”
Right on cue, City came out and scored the first 10 points of the final period to deliver what ended up being the decisive blow in a 61-45 victory over the host Gators.
Kamau Stokes (19 points), Omari George (12) and Timothy Bond (12) all ended up scoring in double figures for a Knights program that advances to the state semifinals for the first time since 2010. Last year, the team lost to Milford Mill in the regional finals.
“It’s a big hump for the team itself and a great hump for me as a coach,” Wade said. “We’ve been in this position before, but this team’s special. I’m just hoping we can finish it off.”
Reservoir, which came in as the defending 3A East region champs, was led by Aaron McDonald (15 points) and Kyle Reilly (11) in the loss. Gators’ coach Mike Coughlan pointed to the second quarter, during which City outscored Reservoir 18-6, as the difference.
While Reservoir did get as close as four points in that third quarter, it never managed to get all the way back.
“That’s the thing about playing great teams, if you have one bad quarter you are going to almost always lose,” Coughlan said. “We played them pretty even the whole game, just the second quarter got away from us. They strapped up on us, we stopped running stuff and they made the run that essentially was the difference in the end.”
Reservoir started well, actually holding a 10-9 lead in the first quarter following a 3-pointer by Reilly.
But City scored the final four points of the period and kept the ball rolling in the second. A 14-2 burst over a six-minute stretch helped the Knights take control, with turnovers and missed jumpers serving as Reservoir’s downfall.
“We stopped running plays … just got stagnant and were trying to play one-on-one. That team is just too good defensively to do that,” Coughlan said.
The deficit was 15 points at the half and actually was at 17 two minutes into the third quarter. But that’s when Reservoir began its comeback, with McDonald leading the way.
The Gators’ senior guard scored seven of the points in an 11-0 run that made it a six-point game.
“Coach told us at halftime that we were playing real soft and this was our home court … if we were going to lose, we better lose in a fight,” McDonald said.
Then, after a couple free throws by City’s Juwan Grant, Reservoir’s Danny O’Hagan (7 points) made back-to-back lay-ups to make it 37-33.
In the closing seconds of the quarter, however, Bond converted a put-back lay-up to grab back some of the momentum in City’s favor.
“The kids had done such a great job, really making a stand to get within those four points and then they get that put-back right before the buzzer … that was deflating,” Coughlan said. “That to me was the big one. I was so proud of the kids for that energy and effort, we just couldn’t sustain it at the end.”
City’s ensuing run to begin the fourth included two lay-ups and six made foul shots. George, who converted the lay-up to start the run at the beginning of the period, said the team simply “woke up from their mental funk.”
“I knew that we had to stay mentally tough because they are a tough team that wasn’t just going to go away,” he said. “It was about staying together and answering their run with our own run.”
Reservoir never got any closer than 11 points over the final four minutes of the game.
City 61, Reservoir 45
C: Stokes 19, George 12, Bond 12, Juwan Grant 8, John Grant 6, Davis 4.
Re: McDonald 15, Reilly 11, Henry 7, O’Hagan 7, Kearney 5.
Half: 31-16 C.
2A South region championship
Potomac 101, Oakland Mills 63
P: Wiley 30, Broddie 27, Smith 15, Dickson 12, Rose 7, Kelly 4, Neugent 4, Lawson 1, Smith 1.
OM: Williams-Day 19, Aaron 14, Bradley 11, Mitchell 10, Kiely 4, Powers 3, Williams 2.
Half: 52-23 P.