After playing basketball last winter at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Michael Warren transferred to Theodore Roosevelt for his senior season to get a final chance to play alongside four of his AAU teammates with the D.C. Warriors.
Late in a tie game against Princeton Day on Sunday night, that connection paid off for the Rough Riders. Junior Johnnie Shuler, a DeMatha transfer, dished to Warren on the final possession, and the 6-foot-5 forward drained an off-balance 25-foot jumper at the buzzer to deliver a 72-69 victory over the Storm in the finale of the DMV Elite Holiday Classic at Trinity University.
“I’ve been playing with him since I was 7, so we’ve kind of got the chemistry together,” Warren said of Shuler shortly after emerging from a pile of jubilant teammates. “We used to be in the gym together from nine in the morning to nine at night.”
The game appeared headed for overtime when Princeton Day junior Brandon Better (18 points) knocked down 1 of 2 free throws with four seconds left to tie it.
During the ensuing timeout, Theodore Roosevelt Coach Rob Nickens called the same end-of-game play he had drawn up in the 2011 City Title Game against DeMatha, giving his point guard the option to pass or shoot. In that game, the inbounds pass was stolen, closing a two-point loss for the Rough Riders.
On Sunday, Shuler received the ball in the back court and quickly sped toward the opposite basket. But instead of forcing a shot in traffic, he drew a defender and calmly fed Warren, entrusting his friend with the final attempt. Warren finished with 18 points, but the game-winning shot was his lone basket of the fourth quarter.
“It was drawn up as a drive-and-kick,” said Shuler, who scored a game-high 21 points. “I knew Mikey would be there, and he made the shot — ballgame.”
The play capped a strange night for Princeton Day, which began the game with only five players when its top two scorers, Aquille Carr and Anton Waters, failed to arrive until late in the first quarter. Carr, a two-time Baltimore Sun Player of the Year, scored 15 of his 16 points in the second half.
A day after upsetting No. 5 Riverdale Baptist, the Storm (7-4) had a five-point lead with less than two minutes left but couldn’t hold it thanks to the heroics of two of the newest Rough Riders (4-0).
“Roosevelt kids never quit,” Nickens said. “That’s something that I’ve installed in our program since I took over. We’re going to play until the clock says zero.”