In a season full of losses by single digits in the Interstate Athletic Conference, the Episcopal boys’ basketball team thought it had found every last way to let a close game slip away. Then Bullis guard Vado Morse looked past the hand in his face to force overtime with a fadeaway corner three-pointer Friday night.
In the extra period, the Maroon went cold from the foul line to allow the Bulldogs to steal a victory. But after a final stand to protect the rim, Episcopal flipped the script on a difficult season and emerged with a 64-62 upset of No. 19 Bullis on senior night in Alexandria.
“We were due for a win,” said senior George Mawanda-Kalema , who scored all 13 of his points after halftime. “We knew we’d have to battle and do whatever it takes. This one came down to pride.”
Episcopal (12-12, 3-7 IAC) had lost five conference games by single digits, including a 65-64 defeat against the Bulldogs on Jan. 24. In Friday’s rematch, Mawanda-Kalema shook off a defender and drained a straightaway three to put the Maroon up 54-53 with 30 seconds left in regulation.
After junior Zach Pfaffenberger converted a pair of foul shots to give the hosts a three-point cushion, Bullis called a timeout and drew up a series of screens to free Morse for his game-tying, circus shot.
In overtime, Episcopal threw away multiple chances for a four-point lead by missing five of its final eight free throws. After Mawanda-Kalema made the game’s final foul shot, the Bulldogs put the ball in Morse’s hands. The junior bullied his way to the rim, but Episcopal finally got a fortunate bounce as the ball clanked off the rim.
“We wanted to make sure he had to score over defense,” Mawanda-Kalema said. “That was the most important thing. We got in front of him and got hands up, and the shot didn’t fall.”
Morse led all scorers with 22 points for a Bullis team that has won six conference games by 10 points or fewer. The Bulldogs (17-6, 8-2) could have clinched the IAC regular season title outright with a win; instead they will share the crown with Georgetown Prep (19-5, 8-2).
“The difference is that we’ve won most of the close games this year and [Episcopal has] lost. But I guess it was sort of a matter of time,” Bullis Coach Bruce Kelley said. “They came out very emotional at the start of senior night. They really jumped us. We did a lot of things well; we just didn’t make the shots we usually make.”
Last year, the Maroon lost three conference games before capturing the IAC tournament title. The win over Bullis snaps a six-game losing streak and gives Episcopal the confidence it needs to peak again in the playoffs.
“We’re on a nice one-game winning streak now going into the playoffs,” Pfaffenberger said. “Now it’s time to refocus and repeat what happened last year. We know we can do that.”
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