Due to the Patriots adequate play toward the latter part of January and beginning of February, they had hopes of earning their first 15-win season since 2012, but more importantly the second seed in the division. Overtaking Whitman for that spot was nothing short of a tall task, however adding a second home playoff game for the Patriots would go a long way in an attempt to get another crack at Churchill.
First up was a trip to Damascus on Feb. 11. They found themselves up nine early on the road, but allowed Damascus to close out the first quarter on an 8-0 run and narrow the lead to just one. Holding the slim lead moving into the second frame, the Patriots let up another run for the Hornets, resulting in an eight-point lead midway through the second, and eventually found themselves down 37-31 heading into the break. Throughout the entire game, the Hornets only had five players score but were able to muster enough offense and play good enough defense to hang on and defeat the Patriots 74-60.
Following the tough loss the Patriots looked ahead to Northwood on Feb. 14 at home. They torched the Northwood defense all game and easily won 81-48. They were led by a big day from senior forward Hubert Bayigamba scoring 20 points and senior guard Jack Lvovsky sprinkling in another 18. This was a needed bounce back victory for the Patriots, out rebounding the Gladiators 44-33 and shooting almost 45 percent from the field.
In possibly one of the Patriots’ toughest tasks of the season they travelled to Gaithersburg on Feb. 18. It was a close contest all game and into the fourth quarter where the Patriots found themselves tied and it looked like they could escape with an unexpected win. However, with four minutes left and the game all knotted up at 44 a piece, Gaithersburg forward Jao Ituka went on a personal 10-0 run and helped lead the Trojans to a 62-48 win. Ituka finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds on the night.
To wrap up the regular season, the Patriots faced the Quince Orchard Cougars on Feb. 21 at home. The stands were almost filled to capacity as students, parents and staff came to celebrate the seniors. All five started, and centers Conor Walsh and Andy Ram earned their first starts of their short varsity careers. The first half went well for the squad and they led 28-19 at halftime. Senior guard Jack Moskowitz was a huge spark for the team with 11 points, but more importantly he brought much needed energy on the defensive side of the ball.
Late in the third quarter and into the fourth, the Patriots weren’t able to stop the two main scorers for the Cougars. Guards Alex Parisotto and Cole Allemong combined for 33 points and most came late in the game. With under 20 seconds left in the game the Cougars were at the free throw line with a three-point lead shooting a one-and-one. The shooter missed the first leading to a battle for the rebound. Unfortunately, junior center Normand Bayigamba fell hard and separated his shoulder. His status is still uncertain, but it does not look promising for post season.
The Patriots had a chance to tie the game with just over six seconds left, but missed a three as time expired. The Patriots ended the regular season with a 12-10 record and hosted Wheaton on Feb. 28 in the first round of the playoffs. If the Patriots win that game, their next matchup would be on Mar. 3 but both were too late to be covered in this issue. With the unknown status of Bayigamba, both Walsh and Ram will need to step up in order for the team to be successful and make the deep run that everyone is hoping for.