In case anyone at La Plata had forgotten the dramatic turnaround its boys' basketball team has made this season, a reminder echoed throughout the school during the morning announcements Friday.
The Warriors are ensured a winning season for the first time in 15 years, the announcement read. It went on to invite fans to attend the Warriors' first-round Maryland 3A South tournament game against Chopticon that night, and they did not disappoint.
Senior guard Carlos Dorsey scored a game-high 15 points, and La Plata pulled away in the third quarter for a 64-41 victory. After winning a total of 10 games during the past three years, Friday's win was the Warriors' 13th this season.
"We've always been the underdogs, and it feels good," Dorsey said. "When we step on the court now, teams know they can't sleep on La Plata."
The Warriors (13-10) were poised for a breakout season under first-year coach Shawn King after their junior varsity and freshman teams played well the past two years. In addition to a talent upgrade, La Plata has benefited from the players' commitment.
"When the season ended last year, a core of these kids started playing right away," King said. "They started going to gymnasiums around the area to play together. When I got here four years ago, these kids rarely went out and played together. Now, it helps with the chemistry."
That showed in the way La Plata distanced itself from Chopticon (3-21) in the third quarter. After the Braves pulled even at 27 with the first basket of the quarter, La Plata went on a 14-0 run.
Junior forward Jerry Cummings scored seven points during the spurt, and Dorsey capped it with a pair of baskets inside. The third quarter ended with the Warriors comfortably ahead, 50-32.
"Coach told us at halftime to step it up or we're going home," Dorsey said. "It's my last year, and I ain't trying to go home."
Dorsey, La Plata's second-leading scorer, has been a catalyst, both offensively and with his rebounding. He hurt the Braves with 15 rebounds.
"He's the toughest player we have," King said. "He goes hard every time. He'll dive on the floor. He'll rebound. He'll take it to the bucket. I ask a lot out of him."
The Braves were at a height disadvantage inside and struggled to contain Cummings and junior center Anthony Anderson. Cummings had nine points and played well while Anderson sat out most of the first half with foul trouble. La Plata outrebounded Chopticon 39-31.
"We just had the intensity to go hard," Anderson said. "We tried not to shoot so many jumpers. We drove hard and got fouled."
Judging from the La Plata's postgame celebration, it was hard to tell that Friday's win was a milestone. Aside from Travis Williams's fist-pump to the crowd, the Warriors were subdued. They left their locker room fully aware of the difficult test that awaits in tomorrow's quarterfinal against Great Mills.
King, however, savored the win.
"It kind of gives them a little topping to go on top of this season," he said. "They've done a very good job of winning. They hopefully have started something, a new trend."