The Churchill High scoreboard seemed to have its own gravity Friday night, a force that pulled the score always back to even, never letting the Bulldogs nor their Montgomery County foes from Wootton distance themselves from the other for long. If one team struck, the pendulum swung back for the other before too long, leaving the game tied after four quarters, and still deadlocked with 15 seconds left in overtime.
But then the scales tipped. Wootton junior guard Justin Feldman was fouled in the midst of an acrobatic shot with 14.8 seconds left on the overtime clock. He hit both free throws, then two more after being fouled again seconds later, so even a late Bulldog bucket couldn’t restore equilibrium. Wootton emerged with an 83-81 win.
“Obviously I was nervous,” Feldman said. “But I just had to compose myself and knock them down, just like practice.”
Those free throws provided a rare moment when practice was on display in a game full of wild plays.
From junior guard Richard Hum’s three-quarter court buzzer-beater which closed out the first quarter, to the 16-0 run Churchill (1-2) mounted to start the second half, to the final minutes of regulation spent diving after a ball that seemed charged with some hidden electricity, the game required flexibility and composure from both sides.
“We had heart the whole game,” Feldman said. “It wasn’t shooting, it wasn’t defense, it was hustle. Hustle and heart.”
The shooting certainly didn’t hurt down the stretch. Both teams hit shot after shot early, combining for nine three pointers in the first quarter alone, including two apiece from Hum and Churchill’s Jesse Locke.
The 6-foot-3 Locke, a junior guard, served as the Bulldogs’ equalizer on several occasions, hitting five three-pointers — nearly all of them with a hand in his face or while falling down — and finished with 29 points.
But for every three Locke hit, the Patriots (2-0) found one of their own. Hum sunk four deep balls and Feldman nailed three to finish with 20 and 21 points, respectively.
In a game as determinedly chaotic as Friday’s extended affair, starters and bench players alike chipped in crucial plays that helped maintain the deadlock. Wootton junior guard Alec Sandler hit two free throws with 40 seconds left in regulation to give his team a one-point lead. Junior Patriots forward Justin Quam tallied his only basket — a putback in traffic — in overtime.
“That’s just total composure from the whole team,” said Hum, who said the win had added meaning as his class’s first ever against Churchill. “That’s just going for the ball hard. You can’t teach that: It’s just hard work right there. It’s just who wants it more.”