When Potomac (Md.)Coach Renard Johnson played for the Wolverines in the mid-’80s, the wooden bleachers were always packed and the gym always loud.
But after some losing seasons and a lack of marquee talent, that atmosphere had dissipated by the time Johnson took over at Potomac two decades later.
Friday night, with his Wolverines charging toward the playoffs and brimming with high-profile talent, the atmosphere Johnson remembered returned. The strength of the old wooden bleachers was tested and the ears of referees and players were left ringing as the biggest crowd any current Wolverine could remember watched No. 8 Potomac avenge an early-season loss to Largo with a 71-58 victory.
“For this gym, I’ve never seen this many people in here,” Potomac guard Randall Broddie said. “I’m just glad everyone came out and supported us.”
The budding rivalry between Abdulai Bundu’s upstart Lions (12-5, 10-3 Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A) and Broddie’s loaded Wolverines (15-3, 12-1) gave the newly invigorated fan base plenty to cheer — and jeer — about. The final score looked comfortable for the Wolverines, but the game was decidedly uncomfortable for both sides, filled with lead changes, quick scoring swings and fouls. Lots and lots of fouls.
Two minutes into the second quarter, both teams were in the double bonus. By the end of the first half, 31 combined fouls left Broddie and two of Potomac’s big men — Dayjar Dickson and Quadree Smith — limited with three personals each.
But among the strengths for this year’s Potomac squad is a depth unparalleled in Prince George’s County, particularly after the transfer of center Smith in early January. When starters Dickson and Smith saddled with foul trouble, fellow starting forward Anthony Smith avoided it. Smith, who finished with 18 points, managed to grab rebounds and points against the Lions’ dominant big man Bundu. Six-foot-4, 290-pound Keiron Howard slid in when foul trouble struck starters, and he joined Smith in doing all he could to check Bundu — which wasn’t much.
“I love my depth right now,” Johnson said. “I’ve got about 35 big-boy fouls, which is good. You saw Keiron Howard. . . . He gives us quality minutes banging against guys like Bundu, who I have the utmost respect for.”
Bundu justified that respect with a performance that included a handful of highlight-reel dunks and emphatic blocks on normally unswattable stars like Smith and Dion Wiley. Bundu rallied his team with 15 second-half points, finished with 22 overall and altered enough Potomac shots that the game was tied with less than three minutes to go.
But when Largo’s leading back-court scorer Aaron Thomas fouled out late, Potomac’s back-court depth took center stage, as Broddie (22 points) and Wiley (21) combined for eight of the Wolverines’ last 11 points to put the game away.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can slide in and play the role,” Anthony Smith said. “We weren’t worried [when we got into foul trouble]. We just had to play smart. Keep battling, but don’t make dumb mistakes.”