Time Is On Lesniak's Side

Winters Mill's Devon Lesniak breaks fifth-ranked Gwynn Park's hearts with his winning 15-foot shot at the buzzer.
Winters Mill's Devon Lesniak breaks fifth-ranked Gwynn Park's hearts with his winning 15-foot shot at the buzzer. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 15, 2008

Believe it or not, Devon Lesniak knew exactly how much time was left in last night's Maryland 2A boys' basketball semifinals. As the final few seconds ticked away, Winters Mill's fans grew so impatient with Lesniak's apparent lack of urgency that they started counting down "4, 3, 2."

Lesniak dribbled around to the left, his back perpendicular to the basket, and suddenly turned around and lofted an arching 15-foot fadeaway that swished through as the buzzer sounded, giving Winters Mill a 58-56 victory over No. 5 Gwynn Park.

"Oh, I knew," Lesniak said. "There was three seconds left, so I figured I had to do something with it."

Winters Mill erased an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes before Lesniak's jumper. It was enough to break Gwynn Park's collective hearts once again in the state tournament. The Yellow Jackets had lost in the championship four of the previous nine years.

Winters Mill, a fourth-year school in Carroll County, will play for its first state championship tonight at 6. It will face Randallstown, which defeated Wicomico, 71-42, in the evening's first semifinal. Randallstown (23-3) will try to become the fourth team to win four straight Maryland state titles, following 2A titles the past two years and a 3A championship in 2005.

Winters Mill (20-5) was able to stay close early because Gwynn Park had trouble finishing. The Yellow Jackets (25-2) shot 22 for 58 (37.9 percent), but the overwhelming majority of those misses were from within eight feet of the basket. In addition, Gwynn Park made 10 of 21 free throw attempts, including 5 of 13 in the second half.

"They're shots we normally make," Gwynn Park Coach Mike Glick said. "They were shots we made all season. Winters Mill had strength inside.

"If we make our free throws down in the end, we can sit back with the lead."

Gwynn Park seemed to take control midway through the fourth quarter. It scored six consecutive points in 53 seconds to take a 52-44 advantage, its biggest lead of the game.

But after a timeout with 4 minutes 7 seconds left, Winters Mill's 6-foot-5 senior guard Cammeron Woodyard, who committed to Penn State last month, drew a foul on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws. Lesniak made a steal and two free throws and Rashad Blackwell's putback of a missed three-pointer cut Gwynn Park's lead to 52-51 with 2:56 left.

Sean Thomas made 1 of 2 free throws, but Blackwell tied it at 53 on a turnaround baseline jumper. After Harold Washington put Gwynn Park ahead on a driving layup, he couldn't convert the subsequent free throw.

Winters Mill went up by one, 56-55, on a three-pointer by Kendall Dorsey with 1:34 left. Thomas tied it with a free throw 30 seconds left, and Winters Mill held for the final possession.

Twice, the Falcons called timeout in the final minute, the second with 24 seconds left to set up a pick-and-roll between Lesniak and the 6-7 Blackwell.

"But they closed it off," Winters Mill Coach David Herman said. Lesniak was "going to have to make something out of nothing."

In the evening's first semifinal, Randallstown fought off a sluggish first half, which ended with the Rams holding a 26-19 lead, and pulled away in the third quarter. The Rams opened the second half on a 19-6 run to put away Wicomico (21-5). Junior forward Alex Jackson scored eight of his game-high 24 points during that run.

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