December 10, 2011
Sherwood Warriors 59- Churchill Bulldogs 56 (OT)
Brandon Loiacono hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity.
His Sherwood Warriors (2-0) had clung to a four-point lead over the Churchill Bulldogs (1-1) for the fourth quarter’s final three minutes, but as the clock ticked down, Churchill mounted a 6-2 run and tied the game.
Sherwood got the ball with 58 seconds left and opted to hold for the last shot, but as senior forward Charlie Rogers got trapped in a corner and threw up a desperation heave, the junior Loiacono (4 points, 4 rebounds) bolted to the basket unmarked. In midair he snagged Rogers’s miss with one hand and acrobatically chucked it off the glass, but the ball rattled off the rim, requiring extra time in Montgomery County’s most hyped early-season game.
“We were calm, cool and collected,” said Rogers (13 points, 3 rebounds). “We’d been in those situations before from our experience last year so we were ready to play.”
The Warriors showed their depth and experience in overtime when they took a late three-point lead that only grew as the Bulldogs sent them to the foul line. Sherwood hit 12 of 12 free throws in the extra session and held Churchill guard Christian Bonaparte to only 9 points total, none in overtime, and Division I-recruit forward Thomas Geenen to 7 points.
“We shut them down. We talked about it in practice that those were their two key players and we did a great job,” said Sherwood head coach Dondrell Whitmore.
In the stead of Geenen and Bonaparte, Sam Eddens led the Bulldogs with 16 points and pulled down 3 boards in the effort. Dominique Williams also provided a spark with 15 points and 3 more rebounds.
Though Sherwood jumped out to an early lead to begin the game, the hosting Bulldogs held the momentum. Bonaparte’s quick hands gave Churchill uncontested layups, but the Bulldogs were often unable to finish. Center Kyle Edwards was benched in the fourth quarter by Churchill coach Matt Miller for his offensive shortcomings. He re-entered in overtime to give fouls to stop the clock.
The Warriors became accustomed to the pressure by the second half behind the guidance of point guard Jourdain McCants (8 points, 2 rebounds) who consciously slowed the tempo of the Sherwood attack. McCants, however, fouled out in overtime and was replaced by junior Jordan Johnson (3 points, 3 rebounds). The quick-footed Johnson fit in nicely with standouts Rogers and Scott Bolen. One of the Warriors’ strengths this year will be its bench play—10 of their 13 players entered the game Friday evening that was close throughout.
In the end, however, too much Bolen (19 points, leading all scorers, 2 rebounds) and Rogers plus excellent rebounding (junior Joey DeStephano led the way with 8 boards for the Warriors) piloted Sherwood to victory and made, what Rogers called “a statement” to other County teams.
“It just proves a lot to the County,” said Bolen. “We come off a 19-point win and we’re not too high to beat another good team. Seneca Valley was a good team. Churchill was great team. We’re just going to rally off of this and go win the next few games.”