As Episcopal drew up the final play for Sunday’s Interstate Athletic Conference championship game, there wasn’t much question as to who would have the ball in the waning seconds; it was more a matter of how Nick Reed would get it.
The Maroon’s leading scorer had been contained during the fourth quarter by Bullis’s box-and-one defense, and with the score tied with eight seconds to play, Reed figured to encounter even more pressure in the Bulldogs’ attempts to deny him the ball.
Things seemed to get only more difficult after Reed took a handoff from forward Edwin Ebube. A defender jumped out toward him off a screen. Then two more defenders converged as he dribbled wide to create space, forcing Reed to split them into the lane and maneuver through the air for a layup that narrowly beat the buzzer for a 56-54 win in Potomac. The outcome dethroned the three-time defending champion Bulldogs and marked Episcopal’s first title since 2011.
“I knew I would get the ball, and once you run the high screen, anything can happen,” said Reed, who finished with 22 points. “Through it all, I was just thinking I need to get up a shot.”
A similar urgency had defined the Maroon’s play since the IAC tournament began, when Episcopal was able to hit the reset button after dropping five of their final seven regular season games.
“Different teams hit their stride at different times and I don’t know when it clicked, but fortunately, this team picked the playoffs to start playing as a team,” Maroon Coach Jim Fitzpatrick said.
But the fourth-seeded Maroon’s postseason run hit a snag during Sunday’s second half. After trailing by seven points in the first half, Bullis (18-6) opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run to retake the lead.
With Reed slowed by the Bulldogs’ defensive scheme, the Maroon (15-11) initially struggled to muster a response. But sophomore George Mawanda-Kalema (11 points) stepped up with three three-pointers to spark a 12-3 run that built Episcopal’s lead back to 44-36.
The advantage, however, was short-lived. Six Bulldogs scored to spur a 12-2 rally that put them back up by four early in the fourth quarter. Though a Jamal Wright bucket and two Alex Leder free throws pulled Bullis into a tie at 54, it left time for Reed’s heroics.
“After we lost our last regular season game, I told our guys it’s not over; this is just the start of a great story,” Reed said. “Tonight was just amazing, and I told our team after, ‘The story continues to the Virginia [Independent Schools Athletic Association] states.’ ”