By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 24, 2011; 11:36 PM
Antone James had the exact feeling you don't want when you toss up a potential game-winning shot.
"When it left my hands, I clutched right before it, and I thought it was off," the Theodore Roosevelt junior guard said. "But you know how you talk about the basketball gods? Well, they saved us."
After a frenetic sequence in which it appeared Roosevelt would turn it over and lose the game, a loose ball rolled to the left corner, where James picked it up and flung in a three-pointer as time expired. It gave the Rough Riders a 71-69 victory over Spingarn in the first boys' semifinal of the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association playoffs Thursday at Coolidge.
Roosevelt, which went 36 years in between league titles, will play for its second in four seasons Saturday, when the Rough Riders face Eastern, which beat Coolidge, 68-54, in Thursday's second semifinal.
While the girls' games weren't expected to provide much drama, the boys' certainly were, and they didn't disappoint.
Roosevelt threatened to break open a close game midway through the third quarter, when the Rough Riders went on an 11-1 run - with Jarrell Allen (15 points) hitting a three-pointer a layup, to go up 54-43. Even though Spingarn rallied to tie it at 58 with four minutes to play, Roosevelt went back ahead 67-60 on a three-pointer by Ezell Starks a minute later.
Roosevelt, though, went cold, missing three of four free throws - including the front ends of two one-and-ones - and turning the ball over on six of seven possessions.
Spingarn got a combined 14 fourth-quarter points from senior Orlando Lawson (22 points) and junior Rockell Vaughn (20), and when Khalif Dandy hit a bank shot in the lane with 50 seconds left, the Green Wave had its first lead, 69-68, since the second quarter.
Despite Roosevelt's turnovers, though, Spingarn couldn't close it out, missing four free throws in the final 26 seconds. When Roosevelt regained possession from its own baseline with eight seconds left, Devin Gallman (17 points) drove the length of the court for a play that called for him to attack the basket.
But as he hit the lane, Gallman slipped, hit the ground and lost control of the ball.
"When he fell, my heart dropped," Roosevelt center Devaughn Jones said. "I thought it was over."
But Gallman was able to get his fingers on the ball and roll it to James, who had no time to think, and just fired up the shot. The buzzer sounded after it swished through.
Both girls' semifinals, however, involved much less drama, though the potential for a good final Saturday is there.
Woodson led Wilson 10-7 late in the first quarter, before scoring the next 10 points and held a comfortable lead the rest of the way. Junior forward Jephany Brown used her strong low-post moves to score a game-high 28 points, as the Warriors have not lost to a DCIAA team in more than five years.
Coolidge, meantime, is playing for its first league title "in decades," according to Colts Coach Craig Gilbeaux. Behind 17 points from guard Ty-onna Teamer, Coolidge, with six sophomores and two juniors, is going into the final unlike few Woodson opponents the past five years: the Colts think they can win.
"Folks are talking about next year," Gilbeaux said. "We're ready this year. If we can get over the aura of H.D., it'll be a game.
Later, Eastern got back to the final for the second year with much less drama. The Ramblers were too strong for Coolidge, behind the perimeter games of Torre Sommerville, Trey Patterson and Dontray Smith, who combined for 50 points.
Eastern took control in the third quarter, going on a 14-4 run to take a 46-32 lead. Coolidge never got closer than nine as the Colts fell in the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year.