In a locker room full of playoff veterans, in a county that loves its basketball, in a state full of teams loaded with enough talent to disrupt the plan, the expectation for the Wise Pumas was a Maryland 4A state title. The Pumas’ seniors thought this was their year. Coaches and fans tabbed Wise as the best team in a loaded Prince George’s County field, and the No. 3 Pumas slowly grew into consensus favorites as they continued to sail past each potential pitfall.
No league rival could beat the Pumas (24-2), nor could eventual 2A state champion Potomac wrest away the county crown. Wise rolled to the 4A South region title, too, then outlasted No. 15 Springbrook to arrive in the 4A state title game.
There, the Pumas were dominant from the outset. After a quarter the lead was 15, at the half it was 27. By game’s end Wise’s starters were celebrating on the bench as its reserves ran out the clock on the most lopsided 4A final win since the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association established the classification in 1989.
“We give a lot of respect to Whitman, but we were determined,” Wise Coach Rob Garner said. “We always talk about not just winning, but how we want to win, and I thought the guys followed the game plan to a ‘T’. . . . We didn’t have to do a whole lot to get these guys motivated.”
The way Wise shot, defended, rebounded, and passed, it may not have mattered who sat on the bench adjacent them at Comcast Center. Vikings Coach Chris Lun admitted “no one was beating them” in the midst of their scalding Saturday night. The Pumas shot nearly 60 percent from the field in the first half, finishing the game shooting 54 percent, 25 of 46 overall.
“In practice, we put up 100 of those shots, each person,” Wise point guard Justice Sneed said. “In the game, it just carried over, and we were just knocking them down.”
The Pumas’ shooting success began with Trevor Brown early and spread through the roster as the game went on. Brown made all six of his field goal attempts, many in the midst of Wise’s explosive start, and finished with 15 points to pace the Pumas. Forward Devin Moore wasn’t far behind, going 5 for 7 from the field to score 14 points, while Lavonte Sanders also shot 5 for 7 to finish with 13.
Senior Josh Fried scored 12 points to lead the Vikings, who shot less than 28 percent for the game and made just one of their 17 three-point attempts.
“They were fantastic. Everything they did worked,” said Lun, who said his Vikings tried to push the Pumas into midrange shots after seeing Wise struggle there in the state semifinals. “They were a buzzsaw.”
The Pumas forced 15 turnovers and recorded seven steals while pushing the Vikings out of their half-court comfort zone and frustrating a set-reliant team by disrupting the passing lanes the Vikings had exploited to wear teams down throughout the playoffs. The result was a largely meaningless fourth quarter, eight minutes in which the Pumas could celebrate their first state basketball title since their school’s founding in 2006.