Expectations were high for Magruder point guard JJ Epps in Tuesday’s Maryland 4A West region semifinal against Kennedy, where a standing-room-only crowd anticipated his matchup against Marcus “Peanut” Murray, the Cavaliers’ touted point guard.
But when the Colonels’ student section rushed the floor after the game, Epps and his teammates just looked at the teenagers, not partaking in the celebration and quickly lining up to shake hands with their rival. For the defending state champions, it implied a step on the march to repeat.
Epps pushed through a bruising, physical game to score 16 points and lift Magruder to a 62-48 win over Kennedy in Rockville.
“Coach was telling me, he was going to put a Snickers bar by the bench if I lost my composure,” Epps said of his matchup with Murray. “He’s a good player, and I mean, more importantly, I’ve been here before.”
Epps gets in three hot-tub sessions a week to keep his 5-foot-6 frame fresh, and that’s where he was likely headed after Tuesday’s win, he said. It was a physical affair, and an emotional one.
Murray (14 points) kept Kennedy (17-8) close through the first two quarters, and hit four three-pointers in the game — but his matchup with Epps took a toll, and Magruder had too many weapons. Nick Griffin hit four three-pointers, and post Justin Witmer added 18 points.
“I was dominating the first half. So they had to switch out to a zone,” Murray said. “After that they really shut our team down. We couldn’t get the shots we wanted.”
Magruder (22-2) opened the third quarter with a quick 7-0 run to take a 37-29 lead, then extended it to 47-35 at the end of the quarter following a Griffin three-pointer and a Epps steal and layup on back-to-back possessions. Kennedy cut the lead to 51-46 on a jumper by Alex Brown (11 points) with just under two minutes to play, but Magruder scored on its next five possessions to put the win on ice.
“We expected to win,” Griffin said, “because we expect the most out of ourselves.”
Charles Porter scored 15 points and Eric Hoadley added 14 to help lift Quince Orchard.
Churchill, which trailed by two at halftime, opened up a 49-43 lead with about five minutes remaining, but behind Porter and Hoadley, Quince Orchard (18-6) simply wouldn’t go away. Trailing 54-52, Hoadley hit one of his two three-pointers on the night with just over one minute remaining and Quince Orchard proceeded to go on a 7-0 run to take a 59-54 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.
Dominique Williams scored 15 points to lead Churchill.