It may only have been the season opener, but shortly after the Broad Run High School boys basketball team gathered in its locker room, the Spartans began a chant they hadn't yelled in a long time: "We're number one! We're number one!"
And, at least Friday night, they were.
Senior forward Jamaine Johnson's free throw with nine seconds left lifted his team to a 49-48 win over visiting Potomac Falls, breaking a 24-game Spartans losing streak that dated to February 1998.
"It's something none of us had ever done before, since we weren't playing varsity the last time we won," said Johnson, who scored nine points and was mobbed by the student body that stormed the court at game's end. "That's why this game meant so much. That's why we had to let it out."
Early on, it was all Potomac Falls. After the teams exchanged baskets to open the game, the Panthers utilized their speed and inside play to score the game's next 18 points, before junior guard John Costello hit a jump shot with 6 minutes 14 seconds left in the half for the Spartans' first points in more than eight minutes.
Down 30-16 to begin the third quarter, Broad Run got back into the game thanks to its defense, which keyed a 19-7 third quarter that narrowed the Potomac Falls lead to 37-35 heading into the fourth.
"There was no way we were going to let them come in here and run us out of our own gym, and that's just what they did in the first half," said Costello, who scored a game-high 15. "We wanted to use this game to forget about last season [in which the team went 0-22]."
That's just what the Spartans did, as junior guard Kevin Hiatt's 15-foot jump shot gave the Spartans their first lead since the opening minute of play, 46-45, with 4:31 remaining.
"Right then we knew we were going to win this game," Johnson said. "That's when we knew the losing streak was over."
However, Potomac Falls rallied to tie the game at 48 two possessions later, when junior guard DeMario McCleary--who scored a team-high 12--calmly sank a three-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:19 to play.
The Panthers had a chance to win the game on their next possession, after the Spartans' Darrin London missed a free throw. But with 52.1 seconds to play, Potomac Falls set up to take the last shot, and as the ball was entered into the post, it was knocked loose.
Costello got the ball and headed up the court, and after drawing the Potomac Falls defenders toward him, dished the ball to a driving Johnson, who was then fouled while shooting.
Although he missed his first attempt badly, he said afterward he knew what going to happen next.
"There was no doubt in my mind I was going to make it," he said.
"And everyone on the team knew it, too," Costello added. "This whole win was about collective teamwork. Everybody did what they had to do to win."
Broad Run--Costello 7 0-1 15, Newton 2 0-1 4, Lilley 1 0-0 3, London 1 0-1 2, Johnson 2 5-11 9, Hiatt 5 0-1 10, Ott 3 0-2 6. Totals: 21 5-17 49.
Potomac Falls--McCleary 5 0-0 12, Bouman, 3 1-3 7, Embrey 2 3-6 9, Treon 1 0-2 2, Lutman 1 3-4 6, Duff 4 4-7 12. Totals: 16 11-22 48.
Halftime: Potomac Falls, 30-16.
Three-point goals: Broad Run 2 (Costello 1, Lilley 1); Potomac Falls 5 (McCleary 2, Embrey 2, Lutman 1).