Charles and Sharrod Ford walked off the court following No. 20 Gwynn Park's 67-63 overtime victory over No. 8 Central last night happy with the victory over their Prince George's County 2A rival, but aware that their team needs to play better.
The Yellow Jackets (4-2, 1-0) overcame early turnovers and missed shots by making key defensive plays and baskets to pull out the road victory. Junior Kellen Pruitt led Gwynn Park with 20 points.
"We're real pleased with the win, but we're not pleased with some of the plays and decisions we made out there," said Charles Ford, a senior guard who is not related to Sharrod, a senior forward. "We are thankful we got out of here with a win. Now we need to go and practice hard and stay focused. The victory is over now."
It was an important win, if only because it was the first league game for both teams and it came against Central (3-2, 0-1), the five-time defending league champion. Both teams advanced to the state tournament last year; Gwynn Park lost in the 3A final, and Central lost in the 2A semifinal.
"We missed open shots, we didn't do what we were supposed to do, we didn't click," said Gwynn Park Coach Steve Matthews, whose team has played five games decided by four points or fewer. "What I keep telling our kids is that if you're good enough to stay in a game, you're good enough to win. Central is a good team, but we're not satisfied with the way we played."
Gwynn Park, which committed eight turnovers in the first quarter, trailed by seven in the first half. But when Sharrod Ford (15 points, 13 rebounds) scored on a fast-break layup with 1 minute 42 seconds left in the game, the Yellow Jackets had a 58-57 lead--their first since the opening basket. Ford then made one free throw with 19 seconds left to raise the lead to 59-57, but Central senior B.J. Haigler tied the game at 59 with a driving layup with 10 seconds remaining.
In overtime, the teams traded baskets until Charles Ford scored the winning basket on a leaning jump shot with 21 seconds left. Central had a chance to tie the game, but junior Emmanuel Jackson missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Sharrod Ford grabbed the rebound.
The turning point in the game might have come late in the first half, when Central senior Sean Brooks, a 6-6 forward who has unofficially committed to Drexel, fell on his left wrist attempting to catch a pass. Brooks had the wrist taped and played the entire second half, but was less effective.
Brooks scored 14 points in the first half, but was held to four after the injury.
"Once Sean hurt his wrist, the game changed," said Central Coach Walter Fulton, who added that Brooks was going to have the wrist X-rayed last night. "He was playing with only one hand, and it's hard to do that in the post. He wasn't as aggressive as he was in the first half."