Chopticon 77, Thomas Stone 64
The ball was in the hands of Chopticon senior Lance Williams as the final seconds ticked off the clock in the Braves' 77-64 win over Thomas Stone on Friday night in the Maryland 3A South Region boys' basketball championship.
Senior forward Jonathan Pease jumped up and down as he watched Williams toss the ball high into the air when the buzzer sounded.
Instantly the nearly 2,000 fans, many of whom lined up three hours early to get a seat in the Braves' gym, swarmed teammates T.J. Carter, Charles Carter and Brandon Somerville at midcourt in celebration. But the players joined the crowd for only a minute before ducking out in search of senior center Terrell Reeves.
Carter may have played the role of hero Friday in the most emotional game of Chopticon's two-year run as Southern Maryland Athletic Conference and 3A South Region champions. But Reeves proved to be the team's soldier and savior.
Reeves spent the afternoon at an emergency room having his wrists X-rayed, a procedure brought on by a hard fall in Wednesday night's semifinal win at La Plata. He did not warm up before Friday's game and remained in his warm-up suit with his wrists heavily taped when was introduced as a starter.
"It was great theater, him coming out still in his warm-ups," Thomas Stone Coach Dale Lamberth said. "And it was clearly an inspiration. I was sorry he was playing hurt, but even I was glad he was playing. It was a gutty performance."
Chopticon's next performance will come at 5 p.m. Thursday in the Maryland 3A semifinals. The Braves (19-2), who are making their second consecutive state tournament appearance, face North Region champion Randallstown at Comcast Center in College Park.
Reeves, who suffered ligament injuries against La Plata, could not grip a basketball earlier Friday. But he grabbed the opening tip against Thomas Stone and scored the game's first basket 11 seconds later on a layup.
Reeves finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks before fouling out with three minutes, seven seconds to play.
"Terrell coming out and getting that first basket when we didn't even think he was going to be able to play, it was just incredible," said Chopticon Coach Rich O'Donnell, who did not make a substitution until Reeves fouled out. "We knew we had to have him to win this game. He just played on heart and on guts. He's an amazing kid."
T.J. Carter, meanwhile, scored a season-high 36 points, marking his third consecutive playoff game with 33 or more points.
"What can you say about him?" O'Donnell asked. "He's just been on fire."
Carter's two three-pointers to start the third quarter -- sandwiched around another three-pointer by Pease -- turned what had been a four-point halftime lead into a 48-35 margin.
Thomas Stone kept fighting behind the sharpshooting of senior forward Daniel Bell (team-high 27 points) and the smart, aggressive play of junior forward Xavier Davis. Davis made three consecutive baskets midway through the fourth quarter to trim the Braves' lead to 65-57 with 5:06 to play.
The Cougars kept charging when Reeves fouled out, getting two baskets from sophomore center Nathan Flowers and another by reserve forward Anthony Coates to close to 65-64 with 2:56 to go.
"I was just over there thinking they'd better not lose," Reeves said of his teammates. "I wanted them to just slow the ball down and make Thomas Stone foul, but our game is just so up-tempo that we don't know how to slow it down."
Carter answered the Cougars' run with a baseline jumper with 2:43 to play, and his cousin Charles added back-to-back baskets to push the lead back to eight. Thomas Stone (19-4) did not score again.
"It felt like it was a Maryland-Duke game or something," T.J. Carter said. "Everybody in the gym was going crazy. The fans for both schools were cheering their hearts out and the players were giving it everything they had. I can't think of a better way for us seniors to remember our last home game."