Magruder Coach Dan Harwood knows the rare gems he has in seniors J.J. Epps and Nick Griffin. Not only are both players four-year varsity starters but they’ve played every minute of their successful careers at the same public school, in the same back court.

“Both of those guys have been through a lot. We were 12-11 in their first year and since then, they’ve won… 83 games in four years,” Harwood said, quickly calculating the numbers in his head following Magruder’s latest win, a 47-30 victory against Quince Orchard in Friday’s Maryland 4A West region final. “You don’t see four-year starters like them everyday and more importantly, you don’t see great kids like them everyday, either.”

When I asked Griffin about the secret behind the team’s continued success, he said “It’s all about staying hungry. You can’t be complacent or content. You always have to make goals and push to reach them.”

As Magruder moves closer to Thursday’s 4A state semifinal against Baltimore Polytechnic in hopes of repeating as champion, perhaps that’s what sticks out most about the Epps-Griffin era: continued improvement.

In each of their four years, both the team’s win total as well as Griffin and Epps’ scoring averages have increased.

2009-10 — Record: 12-11; Epps: 3.6 ppg; Griffin: 4.6 ppg
2010-11 — Record: 22-4 (4A West region champs); Epps: 9.4 ppg; Griffin: 14.8 ppg
2011-12 — Record: 26-1 (4A state champs); Epps:11.6 ppg; Griffin: 17 ppg
2012-13 — Record: 23-2 (?); Epps: 13.4 ppg; Griffin: 18.3 ppg

With Epps and Griffin as the unquestioned leaders for the majority of the past four years, the team’s improvement is a direct correlation of the hard work that they exemplify.

Fellow Post reporter Eric Detweiler shared Griffin’s evolution as a three-point shooter in a feature earlier this year, leading George Washington Coach Mike Lonergan to snag the senior swingman on the recruiting trail. And the resolve of the super-quick Epps has been well documented, as he’s overcome everything from his 5-foot-6 stature to a broken hand sustained earlier this season to the hard fall he shook off during Friday’s win.

With college becoming more of a one-year stop-off and high school ballers often transferring to the various basketball academies sprouting up across the country, it’s rare to see a school build four years of success around two players in the way that Magruder has — a fact that hasn’t been lost on Epps and Griffin.

“You never get tired of winning, so of course it feels good to win the region three years in a row,” Epps said. “We just have to keep up the hard work and play that’s got us to this point.”

Epps has a bruised right hand after that fall against Quince Orchard, according to Harwood. He did not participate in Magruder’s practice on Saturday morning, instead riding a stationary bike during that time. But Harwood said he expects Epps to practice on Monday and be ready to play on Thursday against Poly.

“It’s certainly always a concern for us [when he goes down hard],” Harwood said, “but he’s a tough kid and he usually bounces back pretty good.”

In basketball action over the weekend:

  • North Point punctuated its dominant 27-0 season with its first Maryland 4A girls state championship, beating Baltimore Polytechnic, 62-56.
  • Calvert’s girls rallied to secure their third straight Maryland 2A championship with a 45-39 win against Middletown.
  • River Hill’s girls weren’t as successful, falling 51-47 to Aberdeen in the Maryland 3A title game.

NUMBER CRUNCH: 0
Northern Virginia teams that reached the Virginia state final across the nine classifications among boys and girls this season. This marks the first drought since 2005 — and the last, at least within this format. The Virginia High School League will realign its schools next year.

BREAKFAST LINK:
David Kadiri leads Coolidge into Monday’s inaugural DCSAA final against Ballou.

WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
DCSAA girls and boys championships, 6 and 8 p.m. at the Verizon Center The inaugural DCSAA champs will be crowned Monday, as Georgetown Day battles H.D Woodson on the girls side and Coolidge takes on Ballou in the boys matchup.

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