Boys’ varsity basketball wins regional championship capping off historical season


Photo by Gurnoor Sodhi

The boys’ varsity basketball team holds their trophy after beating Churchill in the regional final.

After an impressive string of games, the boys’ varsity basketball team found themselves at a record of 14-7 coming into their final game of the regular season on Feb. 13. It was senior night at home against Gaithersburg. Senior captains Ryan McGraw, Peter Stanton-Shepherd and Conner Mitchell would all be honored in the game.

The game started off defensively, with the Patriots being down 9-11 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter took a turn for the worse as the team only scored two points in the entire quarter, entering halftime being down 19-11. Led by their captains in an offensive second half, the boys came back and ended up winning the game 55-49. After the game the senior ceremony was held, along with the girls’ varsity basketball team and the winter cheer team. Because the Patriots won their game, they would enter the regional bracket as the three-seed, set to play the six-seeded Walter Johnson at home for their first playoff game.

The Patriots had previously beaten Walter Johnson 74-55 and 71-55, so they came into the game on Feb. 24 with high expectations. It seemed as if these expectations were in the team’s heads as they found themselves down 10 points near halftime. The team was shocked and in need of halftime adjustments. Prayers were answered as the Patriots would make a comeback and win the game, a trend that had been going on for them two games in a row. Knowing that the Patriots would have to play the second-seeded Whitman the next week away, having a slow start to the game was not an option.

Due to the fact that Whitman was the two-seed, they received a bye the previous week, making them fresh to play the team. The game on Feb. 28 started off high-scoring and close, with the Patriots leading 16-14 at the end of the first quarter. In an incredible performance, the team held Whitman to just five points in the second quarter and scored 19 of their own, making the score 35-19 at halftime. Stanton-Shepherd was the leader of this run, as he made all four three-point shots he attempted. In the third quarter, the Patriots’ lead was cut down slightly to 11 points with a score of 49-38. Finishing off the game strong, the team increased their lead and won 73-60. The team did the opposite of their previous two games and started off on fire, allowing them to advance to the regional final against the one-seeded Churchill on Mar. 2.

It seemed like it was out of a movie for the Patriots to play their arch rivals in the regional final. The Patriots were the definite underdogs but excited for the challenge. With both student sections filled to the brim, it seemed as if everyone had great anticipation for the game.

Stanton-Shepherd started the game off with a three, continuing his hot shooting stint. At the end of the first quarter, the team was up 12-11. The second quarter did not fare well for the Patriots. One player on Churchill made four straight three pointers, and it was clear that this would be a game of runs. In a high scoring quarter, the team was down 35-27 at halftime.

A loss here would still cap off an impressive season, already having two playoff wins, although the boys were not going out without a fight, tightening the game in the third quarter to four points, down 50-46. After tightening up the game even more, with 2:30 left, junior Yassine Idrissa fouled out after an impressive 20-point performance. The team was down 56-54. The Patriots had finally taken the lead back with one minute left in the game, their first lead since early in the second quarter. They were up 61-58, and were in a great position to actually win the game.

After fouls and free throws, the game ended with the boys winning 68-63, and the fans stormed the court in excitement. The Patriots won their regional final, and would advance to the state bracket. “Being on the court after beating our rivals with all of our fans has to be a top moment for my high school basketball career,” Stanton-Shepherd said.

The first game in the state bracket was held at Meade, on Mar. four, over 40 minutes away from the school. Meade was getting renovations, limiting the number of tickets sold at the game. Students from this school did not know this, resulting in no students being able to purchase tickets; 50 tickets were reserved for the families of the players, and nothing more. This started the Patriots off with a clear disadvantage.

The game started off poorly, with the Patriots down 23-8 at the end of the first quarter. Meade was getting every rebound, allowing them to score a lot of second chance points. The team slightly made the score closer, down 37-26 at halftime. Meade was hot from three, and they were not allowing the Patriots to come back. The game remained dominated by Meade, as they were up 51-33 at the end of the third quarter. The Patriots cut the lead down significantly to end the game with a final score of 64-53, wrapping up a historical season.

“When I decided to be an assistant coach my dream was to help lead these students to a championship. I really didn’t think I would see that. But now I have, in just two years. This team, this year, has elevated itself into a new culture, one that I think will last for a very long time,” assistant coach and science teacher Sanford Herzon said.