High School Boys Basketball: Friendly Beats Gwynn Park, 56-43

Friendly's Michael Gonzales (1), who scored 12 points, is fouled by Gwynn Park's Ryan Woodard, right.
Friendly's Michael Gonzales (1), who scored 12 points, is fouled by Gwynn Park's Ryan Woodard, right. "It feels good to be the one that my team depended on," Gonzales said. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo     Buy Photo
By Carl Little
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, February 21, 2009

It was fitting that Michael Gonzales would get swept into the middle of the bouncing, celebrating bodies after Friendly's 56-43 victory over visiting Gwynn Park last night. It was Gonzales who provided the key baskets during the third quarter that put the Patriots ahead and the free throws in the final period that kept them in front.

So as the band keyed up a triumphant melody and the senior night crowd spilled onto the court in Fort Washington, Gonzales locked arms with his teammates and danced in the center of it all, relishing the moment.

"I ain't been in this position in a while," said Gonzales, a senior who finished with 12 points. "It feels good to be the one that my team depended on."

The victory gave the Patriots (20-2, 18-1) the Prince George's 3A/2A/1A title and a berth in the Prince George's County championship game Wednesday night at Wise, where they will play 4A champion Laurel.

Last year, Gonzales was a seldom-used backup on a team that won 13 games before losing in the region playoffs. Despite a limited role, he attended every practice and established a reputation as one of the hardest workers on the team.

He used the offseason -- Gonzales ran outdoor track last spring to increase his stamina and dedicated the summer months to becoming a better passer and honing his mid-range jump shot -- to expand his role on this year's team. He has averaged nearly six points per contest while starting every game for Friendly.

"He's really the guy who leads this team," said Rob Garner, Friendly's second-year coach.

Gwynn Park played a box-and-one defense on Patriots senior A.J. Thomas, one of the Washington area's premier scorers at 22 points per game. The Yellow Jackets (17-5, 16-2) used three defenders to limit Thomas to three points and led 34-30 in the third quarter.

That's where Gonzales took charge. He scored on back-to-back possessions at the end of the period, hitting a short bank shot from the right side of the floor to tie the game at 34 and drawing a foul on a made layup down the middle. After the whistle, Gonzales screamed and pumped his fist as the capacity crowd hooted its approval.

Friendly ended the game on a 17-5 run, with the exclamation point coming on a Brian Brooks dunk with 20 seconds to play.

Friendly 56, Gwynn Park 43 Nice Effort: Gwynn Park senior forward Corey Anderson scored a team-high 12 points. Scary Moment: Gwynn Park sophomore phenom Brandon Ford, who had eight of his team's 18 points in the first quarter, suffered a concussion after hitting his head on the floor at the start of the second quarter. He was taken to Children's Hospital and was expected to be held overnight for observation.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company