Wakefield guard Marqua Walton missed the front end of two foul shots late in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 5A North championship against No. 2 Potomac (Va.), which kept the Panthers within three points with about four seconds remaining. He shook his head for a moment after the shots, then smiled at a teammate, knowing that his opponents were truly the ones shouldering all the pressure.
The undefeated Panthers, who had won all 27 of their games, turned the ball over on the ensuing possession — and No. 20 Wakefield escaped with a 70-66 upset over Potomac before a standing room-only crowd in Arlington.
“They came into our house and thought they were going to bully us around,” said Walton, who scored 15 of his 18 points in the final five minutes. “We’re not going to let that happen.”
If it hadn’t done so yet, Wakefield (24-4) announced itself as a state title contender, matching the powerful Panthers (27-1) blow for blow from the onset. Wakefield struggled to contain 6-foot-9 power forward Trey Porter early, as Porter (23 points) used his length and speed to make several high-wire dunks and three-point plays in the first half. But Wakfield went on a 14-3 run to take a 32-28 lead into the halftime, which was fueled by the relentless inside presence of junior Dominique Tham, who led the team in scoring this winter.
“I’ve been playing wth bigger people, older people, and I got used to it [this season],” said Tham, who finished with 18 points. “I like facing a challenge.”
Senior guard Jalen Carver added 17 points for Wakefield, whch hasn’t lost since the last week in January, and Carver’s free throws pulled the Warriors within 51-49 at the six-minute mark. Walton took over from there. After Porter’s two-handed slam gave the Panthers the lead back two possessions later, Walton scored five points on back-to-back possessions to spot his team a 56-53 lead — and he held a showdown with Potomac guard Torrey Dixon over the next two minutes. The two traded layups, then Dixon (13 points) hit a three-pointer to give his team a 62-60 lead with just over a minute remaining. Walton answered on the next possession with a three-pointer of his own to give Wakefield the lead back at 63-62, and it never trailed again.
“In the first half I got into a little bit of foul trouble. When I got back into the game...I was going to have to make big shots,” Walton said. “We had no pressure on us. They had all the pressure on them to stay undefeated.”