In terms of sheer drama, Whitman's 76-73 overtime victory over Sherwood in the Maryland Class 4A West Region quarterfinals Monday will be difficult to top this postseason.
The game featured eight ties, 23 lead changes and a season's worth of heart-stopping clutch plays.
"It was a great high school game, and all the players responded," said Sherwood Coach Tom Crowell. "It was a playoff atmosphere all the way. I'm proud of my kids and I'm proud of the way Whitman played. They played great and we played great too. Somebody just has to lose these games."
Sherwood led 49-44 with two minutes, 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter before Whitman senior Dan Engelstad scored 10 points, including two three-point plays, to help the Vikings take the lead behind a 14-5 run.
The Warriors responded with a 10-3 run capped by Eric Ansari's layup with 1:06 left that gave Sherwood a 64-61 lead. The Warriors' Scott Uyuenten (team-high 23 points) hit his fourth three-pointer of the game during the run.
After a Whitman timeout, the Vikings got a game-tying three-pointer from the most unlikely of players. Engelstad drove into the lane and kicked the ball out to 6-foot-10 center Jerome Habel. An inside force who scored all nine of his field goals in the paint (including seven dunks), Habel drained a three-pointer from the right corner.
"If you had told me Habel could hit a three-point shot dead in the corner, I would have bet the mortgage on that one," Crowell said. "I'd have given it to him. When I saw him take it, I said, 'Good.' But he nailed it."
Getting the ball in Habel's hands was planned, however, according to Whitman Coach Orlando Larracuente.
"That was diagramed, and they ran it perfectly and then Jerome hit it," he said. "The reason I diagramed that was because in practice [Jerome] told me that was his spot. Throughout the season we've been talking trash, and he's told me, 'Coach, I can hit it from here any day.' And I remembered that, so I said, 'This sucker's going to have to hit one tonight or we're out of here.' The man has brought us a long way, and I gave him the shot."
Sherwood took the lead again, 66-64, when Uyuenten cut back door, took a pass from P.J. Pleasant-Jones and layed the ball in with 20 seconds to play. But Engelstad would not let his team lose.
The senior point guard grabbed the rebound of a missed three-pointer in the paint and drew a foul with 3.5 seconds to play.
With a near-capacity crowd on its feet, Engelstad drained the first free throw. Sherwood called timeout to ice Engelstad, but he stepped back on the line and calmly made the second.
"That doesn't work with Dan," Larracuente said of the timeout. "You're wasting your time if you try to ice him."
In overtime, Engelstad assisted on two Habel baskets and another by senior Marc Gruner (eight points, three blocks) as Whitman built a 73-71 lead. But Uyuenten scored again to tie the game.
With time running down, Whitman missed a shot and there was a scrum for the ball in the paint. The ball was batted out to the perimeter where Engelstad gathered it and drilled the game-winner with 15 seconds to play.
"I just remember seeing the target, knowing I had to knock it down, knowing the season was on the line," Engelstad said. "This being my senior year, I didn't want to be denied because I'd never won a playoff game in my life."
A Youth Movement
Bethesda-Chevy Chase's season came to a close Monday in the Class 2A South Region quarterfinals as the Barons fell to Central of Prince George's County, 56-42.
"We played well in the beginning and then just kind of fell apart," said Bethesda-Chevy Chase Coach Kevin Lowndes. "Our youth really showed."
The Barons' youth, however, provides a silver lining to their playoff exit. Five of their top seven players, including three starters, are sophomores. The Barons lose their starting backcourt of seniors Sirack Gobezai and Biya Belayneh but return center Christian Hernandez (the Barons' top scorer with 16.2 points per game), Kevin Regan, Carl Buck and brothers Ryan and Kyle McBurney for two more seasons.
"They're only going to get bigger and stronger and faster," Lowndes said. "The Central team was made of seniors and juniors, and you looked on the floor and my team looked like boys compared to men. But they're all excited to get to the weight room and get stronger and we haven't had that in a long time around here."
Winning With Defense
One of the most pleasant surprises for Magruder Coach Dan Harwood this season has been the Colonels' defense.
Heading into Wednesday night's 4A West semifinal with Watkins Mill (results were not available for this edition), Magruder was giving up just 48.3 points per game and holding opponents to 36 percent shooting.
Monday, in the Colonels' 54-49 victory over Damascus, Magruder held the Hornets to five baskets and 22 points through three quarters.
Damascus got hot in the fourth and hit five three-pointers but could not come all the way back.