There were eight minutes left in the Maryland 3A state championship game when Desi Wiseman turned behind him to the Westlake fans filling out the bottom level of Comcast Center. He raised his arms above his head slowly and asked them to rise in their seats and for the No. 19 Wolverines on the floor to do what they had become known for in their run to the championship — pull off a late rally for an upset.
But Westlake, fresh off a close win against defending champion Milford Mill two days earlier, fell behind in the fourth quarter before falling, 59-48, to City College of Baltimore.
It was the Wolverines’ first trip to the title game and first appearance in the state tournament since 2001. They suffered only one conference loss throughout the season and snuck past Thomas Stone in the region semifinal on a go-ahead shot at the buzzer from senior Chris Craft.
“Our guys were on a mission. Our goal was to win states,” said Coach Ed Mouton, whose team was outscored 18-5 in the fourth quarter. “It was just a couple possessions here, a couple possessions there.”
The Wolverines, winners of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, ended the first two quarters with buzzer-beating threes from Wiseman and Randy Johnson . It wasn’t until it was down by five in the second half that Westlake turned up the pressure on City (27-0) for an 11-point advantage in the third quarter.
Dominic Espeleta used his speed for a drive to tie it, and Gabriel Jarvis hit a late third-quarter three to give Westlake the lead as the teams entered the final quarter. The Wolverines were one point down with just 5 minutes 11 seconds left in the game after a layup and foul drawn by Chris Craft.
City regained possession and held it, passing around the top of the circle after one of Tim Bond’s four three-pointers put the title out of reach for the Wolverines. Bond had a game-high 16 points.
“They executed better than we did at the end,” Mouton said.
Craft was the only Wolverine to manage double digits, scoring 10 points. Wiseman was held to eight, and Johnson had his biggest game of the playoffs with eight points and three rebounds.
“We worked all summer to get here,” Johnson said. “And now we’ve set the stage for the juniors.”
City was most effective in shutting down 5-foot-11 junior point guard Espeleta, holding him to just seven points after a 27-point performance in the semifinals.
“They had tall guards, and they definitely made it harder for me to get to the basket,” Espeleta said.
“They are big, fast and strong, and I just told them to do the basic stuff, no matter how tall or how fast they were. We had a lot of second chances and kept fighting, but the best team won today.”