The wait was over. That was what went through the minds of Oxon Hill seniors Rashaud Nixon, Chris Pugh and Demario Anderson as they walked off the court following a 53-40 victory over defending state champion Eleanor Roosevelt in the Maryland 4A South Region final on Friday.
During the two years the senior trio played on the varsity, the Clippers won 39 of 43 games entering last week's regional tournament. That run included consecutive Prince George's 4A League titles -- a conference arguably the Washington area's best.
However, it was not until the Clippers' punctuated their three-game run through the regional tournament that the seniors accomplished one of their loftier goals.
"We waited two years for this -- winning the region title so we could make it back to the state tournament," said Pugh, who will play at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County next season. "Every year we have three goals: Win the county regular season title, win the region tournament and win the state title. We accomplished the first two and now we just have one left."
Third-ranked Oxon Hill (20-3) is two games away -- beginning with tonight's 4A semifinal game against Lake Clifton of Baltimore (20-4) at Comcast Center (tipoff is 9 p.m.) -- from being able to check the final item off its list for the first time since winning its lone 4A title in 2000.
In the teams' last meeting four years ago today, the Lakers made a layup as time expired to defeat the Clippers in the 4A state final, 50-48.
"I wouldn't say that we haven't accomplished anything, because we have won a lot of games," said Nixon, a three-year varsity player whose teams are a combined 65-6. "But we need a state title to make our time here complete, because winning a state title is the only thing we haven't done."
Anderson, who will play for Central Connecticut next season, added: "I don't want to look back at the end of the season and see that we did all this work for nothing. We have come too far together to fail. Every player on this team knows what he needs to do for our team to win."
No players are more integral to Oxon Hill than its three seniors. The 6-foot-3 Anderson, a power forward who averages a team-leading 13.8 points, is the Clippers' best post player. Nixon, a 6-4 shooting guard, averages 12.6 points by using his mid-range jump shot to pick apart zone defenses. Pugh (9 ppg), the point guard, runs the team's half-court offense with precision.
"We're not a fancy team and we don't look for one guy to score all our points," Oxon Hill Coach Billy Lanier said. "We spread the ball around offensively [six players average at least six points], so I think my seniors get overlooked because their statistics don't jump off the page at you."