Potomac’s run to last year’s Maryland 3A state title game, and the humbling blowout loss that followed, created a lofty outlook for this year’s team. Making a return trip to Comcast Center was not only the goal but the expectation placed on an experienced team loaded with talent.
In the weeks following Quadree Smith’s transfer to Potomac, which formed a talented trio with guards Dion Wiley and Randall Broddie, Coach Renard Johnson remembers having to explain why every one of their games didn’t end in a rout.
But with Oakdale High threatening to mount a late charge in Saturday’s 2A state final in College Park, it was Smith who powered through the team’s final obstacle, muscling through a foul to convert a putback in the final three minutes that helped seal Potomac’s 64-51 win and the school’s first championship since 2005.
“When I scored that bucket, it was just unbelievable,” said Smith, who finished with 14 points and 19 rebounds. “From there on, I knew it was our game and I knew there was nothing they could do to stop us.”
Smith led a defensive effort that saw Potomac out-rebound Oakdale, 49-28, and hold prolific scorer Zach Thomas to 13 points on 3-for-21 shooting.
Wiley also struggled to get going on the offensive end early and finished with 13 points. But, as he has done throughout the playoffs, Broddie sparked Potomac with his shooting and aggressive drives, scoring 10 of his team-high 18 points to help the Wolverines build a 19-9 first-quarter lead.
“That’s just what I like to do every game,” Broddie said. “Setting the tone like that throws the defense off.”
The Bears (21-5) awoke from their offensive slumber late in the first half. Clay Conner (20 points) drained two jumpers to trigger a 7-0 run that cut Potomac’s halftime lead to 27-24. Julius Thompson also began to challenge Smith inside and scored off tough layups in the paint.
But with both the tempo and Potomac’s lead whittling down, Smith asserted himself inside, turning offensive rebounds and interior passes into eight points during a 12-2 third-quarter run.
“When we have a certain number of rebounds, we win,” Johnson said. “Rebounds win championships, and once [Smith] gets the ball and squeezes it, it’s his.”
With Anthony Smith closely shadowing Thomas on defense and the Wolverines (23-5) hitting 11 of their final 13 free throws, Potomac was able to stave off a late Oakdale rally and finish the season as its players had hoped and their community had expected — hoisting the state championship trophy at mid-court.
“It feels great because last year we came up real short,” Wiley said. “I knew. . . well, I mean, I had a strong feeling when I woke up this morning that we were going to win. It’s a great day.”