Late last week, Gaithersburg’s senior captains – including point guard Deja Rollins – called a 45-minute team meeting to address the team’s mindset heading into the Maryland 4A playoffs. It had become a common practice for Rollins and the Trojans the past two seasons to have a long meeting before a postseason run – and in Rollins’ mind, the gatherings were key factors in the Trojans claiming the last two 4A championships.
But no meeting could prepare Gaithersburg for what happened on Tuesday night against Wootton in the second round of the 4A West region playoffs. Wootton (17-7) took a three-point lead with just under 20 seconds remaining in overtime – leaving Gaithersburg Coach Adrian McDaniel in desperate need of a play that would keep his team’s chances of a three-peat alive.
Forward Janessa Fauntroy responded in the most surprising of ways. The junior, who had not made a three-pointer all season, swished a step-back long ball with 12 seconds left to tie the game and send it to double-overtime, where the Trojans eventually took control and won 76-68. Fauntroy scored 27 points and pulled down 20 rebounds, while Rollins added 17 points in what McDaniel called one of the toughest first-round games in his six years with the school.
“We just told the girls, ‘Hey, we’ve fought through adversity all year long,’” McDaniel said Monday by phone. “Why stop now?”
Gaithersburg (17-4) will meet fifth-seed Bethesda Chevy-Chase (11-13) Wednesday. The streaking Barons have won six straight games after taking down Churchill 47-34 in a second-round matchup on Monday.
On Sunday, one day before Wootton nearly upset her team, Rollins said there was still pressure for the program to carry the torch from the last two state championship teams – and that the Trojans will have to get used to playing with “a target on our back.”
It has been a year full of trials for Gaithersburg, and Rollins in particular. The team struggled early in the season and saw its 54-game winning streak that spanned two seasons was snapped at Poolesville in just it’s second game. Rollins sprained her knee and missed a couple weeks in the middle of the year, and still is not playing at a 100 percent, she said.
Still, Gaithersburg has not lost since Dec. 21, and Fauntroy has been the centerpiece in some critical games for Gaithersburg. She delivered key shots and blocks in an overtime win at over Paint Branch on Feb. 1, and delivered a similarly memorable performance in Monday’s win against Wootton.
“This year she’s had her ups and downs, but the last couple games she’s come through tremendously,” McDaniel said. “Hit a big three to send us to overtime. Usually you don’t look for your center to hit a three to go to overtime.”