There were 3.6 seconds left in overtime when Winters Mill boys basketball junior Avery Serafin corralled an offensive rebound near the baseline on the right side. The Falcons had to battle back to even make it to this point in their season opener at Howard on Wednesday night. Down, 50-43, with with under four minutes to play, they scored seven unanswered points to force overtime.
Now, with the game on the line, Serafin possessed the ball but did not know how much time was left. He thought of trying to draw a foul. He looked for an open teammate in the corner. He then gave a shot fake, dribbled once to his left and realized he could create his own shot by turning toward the basket.
“I just took the shot,” Serafin said, “and prayed that it went in.”
As he drifted towards the foul line, Serafin saw the ball rattle through the hoop to give Winters Mill a 59-57 overtime victory.
Then pandemonium ensued. Serafin, who finished with 11 points, sprinted back down the court while his teammates chased him. He circled around to the Falcons bench, where coaches greeted him with cheers and high fives. However, those gestures were just pit stops on his celebration tour, with the main destination being to embrace a woman he and some of his teammates had dedicated their season to.
Sandra Dease, who’s son Brayden is a Falcons power forward, was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time in August. Standing nervously in the corner in the final moments, Dease threw her hands in the air after the basket and jumped up and down. Moments later, she gave Serafin a emphatic hug before the rest of the Falcons mobbed the player of the game.
“It was a great moment,” Serafin said. “I told her ‘Look, we didn’t come this far to lose. We’re going to be here to win.’”
Winters Mill (1-0) gave itself a chance to win thanks to a strong shooting effort. The Falcons’ first four field goals were 3-pointers, which helped them match Howard’s offensive production early on. The teams played a back-and-forth opening half, with the Lions entering the break with a 28-25 lead.
But early in the third quarter, a smothering 2-3 zone defense and junior guard Devin Dawkins (15 points) spearheaded a Howard 10-1 run that gave the Lions (0-1) a comfortable lead. They took a five-point lead into the fourth quarter and were positioned to secure the win from there.
After a layup from junior Kile Johnson, Howard held a seven-point lead with 3 minutes, 45 seconds to play, forcing Falcons coach Devon Lesniak to call a timeout.
“I really challenged them in that timeout to get stops, take care of the ball and get good buckets,” Lesniak said. “And I think they really answered me there at the end.”
Chandler Gentzel (14 points) served as the Winters Mill hero of regulation by tying the game on a right-wing 3-pointer with just over a minute to play. Without his clutch jumper, the Falcons may have not forced overtime.
Even then, it appeared these teams would need four more minutes to decide the outcome, especially after guard Terren McDonald’s off-balance floater caromed off the rim in the final seconds.
But Serafin was there to secure the rebound and seal the Howard’s season-opening defeat.
“Every rebound, every loose ball, every position counts,” Lions coach Seth Willingham said. “Our kids played hard, so just doing the little things and working on those things in practice.”
Winters Mills (1-0) — 59, Howard (0-1) — 57 (OT)
Ho — Dawkins 15, O’Connor 11, Blanco 9, Johnson 8, Williams 7, Agbai 2, Stephanos 2, Roberson 2, Kim 1.
WM — Callahan 14, Gentzel 14, Serafin 11, Graham 9, McDonald 6, Monroe 3, Barnes 2
Half: 28-25, Ho
Other Howard County scores:
Long Reach (1-0) — 56, Western Tech — 53
LR — Jones 28, Davis 9, Shupe 8, Raymond 3, Martin 2, Young 2, Thompson 2, Lee 2.
Half: 32-31, Western Tech.
Catonsville — 63, Mt. Hebron (0-1) — 61
MH — Prox 19, Coleman 14, Nazaire 6, Kinloch 6, Yassin Omer 5, Crump 4, Bates 4, Jackson 2, Ichrist 1.
Loyola Blakefield — 62, Glenelg Country (0-2 MIAA A, 2-4) — 61
GCS — Paar 19, Hornatko 14, Oates 11, Owen 10, Charles 5, Hendricks 2.
Half: 32-28, GCS
Severn — 73, Chapelgate (0-2 MIAA B, 2-4) — 48
CH — Heard 17, Dickerson 11, Hatcher 7, Wise 6, Bo Wesley 4, Jalen Morant 3.
Half: 39-20, Severn
Reach Kyle Stackpole at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @kylefstackpole