The game was over until it wasn’t.
Everything in Brandywine indicated Gwynn Park boys’ basketball team had beaten North Point. Yellow Jackets junior Justin Faison had slashed to the hoop to sink the winning the basket, answering the Eagles’ first tie of Friday night. The clock read 0:00 when Gwynn Park left the bench and mobbed Faison. An already heated crowd inside an overflowing gym took that cue to storm the court.
The truth was two whistles away, and a bipartisan crowd in a border battle between the hosts from Prince George’s County and the visitors from Charles County had to sweat out another 1.9 seconds of basketball in a 67-66 win for Gwynn Park.
The game had not finished when Faison’s bucket went in because an official had called a shooting foul on a North Point defender. Faison had not attempted his free throw before officials called a technical foul on the Gwynn Park fans for rushing the floor.
Fans were urged back into the bleachers, players returned to the hardwood and, in a critical moment for the Yellow Jackets (2-0), Faison converted his free throw to give him a team-high 18 points.
Junior Jalen Gibbs scored the last of his 20 points at the stripe, converting both free throws to bring the Eagles (2-1) within a point with possession for the inbounds pass.
But Yellow Jackets senior Kollin Mitchell, who scored all 13 of his points in the first half, figured the Eagles would try a lob with so little time remaining. Mitchell backpedaled and skied to intercept the pass, ending the game for the second time in two seconds.
“I was hyped with the crowd. The crowd running on the court and the clock saying 0:00? I thought the game was over, time to go home,” Mitchell said. “We put too much heart and hard work into practice to lose that game.”
A tight contest could not have been predicted during a first half in which Gwynn Park led by 19. The Yellow Jackets began the game on a 12-0 run punctuated by Faison, who was pounding his chest and holstering both hands at his waist after hitting his first three.
After Faison drove through contact at the game’s first finish, he thought he had reached a milestone.
“I did think it was over. I thought it was my first game-winner,” he said. “But then they put more time on it. I just had to hit the free throw and make sure we got the ‘W.’ ”
North Point senior Malik Brown (18 points) cut the lead to 10 just before the halftime buzzer, and the Eagles came back to outscore Gwynn Park in every quarter but the first.
The Eagles started the third quarter on a 6-0 run and cut the lead to two but couldn’t force a tie until Gibbs hit a reverse layup with 23 seconds left.
“Our coach got on us a little bit in the locker room. We just had to come out with fire,” Gibbs said. “I feel like we had a good shot at the end, but the ball just didn’t go our way.”
On the final play, senior forward Isaiah Miles (12 points, 14 rebounds) threaded a pass through two defenders to find Faison and, ultimately, decide the first meeting between the two schools.
“It’s a very unusual ending, electric atmosphere, an unbelievable rivalry — I think something that has to continue,” Gwynn Park Coach Mike Glick said. “Fortunately, the game was not decided on the call.”