For the Einstein boys’ basketball team, a sure-fire upset victory at North Hagerstown on Thursday night slipped away with a 1-for-6 effort at the free throw line to close regulation. By the time senior Josh Ogburn misfired on a jumper at the buzzer in a tie game, Coach Rich Porac had plenty of reason to worry about overtime.
Instead, the Titans erupted for 19 points in the extra period, cruising to an 81-72 win that pushed them through to the Maryland 3A West semifinals. After a nine-win regular season, Einstein improved to 2-0 in the playoffs, heading into Tuesday’s game at Urbana.
Junior Joe Bradshaw scored a career high 32 points in the latest victory and Ogburn added 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists. The pair went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in overtime against the Hubs.
“We’re quote ‘shocking’ people right now, but we’re not shocking us,” Porac said. “We expected to be here two and a half months ago. It didn’t happen exactly the way we planned, but we always had the pieces in place to do it. It was just a matter of figuring them out.”
Einstein (11-13) began the year with 10 losses in its first12 games but entered the postseason with momentum after winning five of seven to close the regular season.
Still, the state’s random draw provided a challenging path. The Titans — who finished 2-21 a year ago — began the playoffs on Tuesday with a 59-52 home win over Watkins Mill, a team that beat them twice in the regular season and also three times last season.
Ogburn and Bradshaw each recorded double-doubles in that game and sophomore Raheem Hayes added 13 points. Porac’s squad trailed early in the fourth quarter but pulled ahead with 26 points in the final eight minutes.
Hayes, an athletic 6-foot-3 guard, only took up the sport last year and spent most of the season on junior varsity. He has joined the varsity starting lineup and now plays almost every minute.
“He’s going to be special,” said Porac, who spent three seasons as a manager at the University of Maryland under Coach Gary Williams from 1998-2001.
Porac’s major adjustment against the Wolverines (13-10) was using a diamond-and-one defense to slow Watkins Mill’s leading scorer, Alex Sotomayor. Junior Michael McMillan and senior Peter Belony took turns in short shifts denying Sotomayor the ball. The senior ranks second in Montgomery County in scoring at 18.2 points per game, but Einstein held him to nine points.
On Thursday, Einstein trailed by a point at the half, and Porac told his players they were “getting bullied” by the physical Hubs. After an inspired third-quarter gave the Titans control, they had to settle for overtime.
Bradshaw — a 6-foot-6 swingman who has grown about 10 inches in the past two years — connected for two three-pointers in the extra frame to steal back the momentum. He has averaged 20.8 points over his last 11 games.
Now the Titans are the only local team left in the Maryland 3A West bracket and are two wins away from their third state tournament appearance and first since 1999.
“I honestly didn’t think it was going to take 15 games into the season for the light switch to go on,” Porac said, “but that’s a testament to these kids that they kept coming to practice every day and working hard.”