It’s the type of shot that’s usually the stuff of dreams. The type of shot that Great Mills guard Raymond Mcleod would think about during school. He’d practice it on the court and with a piece of paper and a trashcan, imagining the moment when the scoreboard changes and the crowd goes wild.
When Mcleod finally hit his game-winning, last-second three-pointer, he didn’t even know the final score. Coach Frank Peck had told the squad to look for a two to tie the game in the last possession, but Mcleod found himself alone by the coaches’ box when the Westlake defense collapsed in the paint.
He didn’t realize how far out he was until he took the shot, with four seconds left, to give Great Mills (4-1) a 63-62 win against Westlake last Monday.
“I didn’t even realize I won the game until I looked at the scoreboard,” Mcleod said. “And when I looked up I was like ‘Oh my god, we just beat Westlake.’ But I kept kind of a poised face — I wasn’t trying to be too cocky.”
Mcleod and the Hornets kept their composure until they got back to the locker room. They sat, silent and in shock, until Peck walked in and broke into a smile. At that point the team “just went wild,” Mcleod said.
It was a fitting finish for a group of players that’s branded themselves “dreamchasers” for the 2013 season. They’ve got their individual goals — Mcleod wants to play Division 1 basketball, ideally at a top program like the University of North Carolina, while Trevon Porter wants to continue onto Navy. Bernal Day would like to play football at the next level.
But the collective ambition is to outdo last year’s playoff showing — a one-point loss to Meade in the second round — and make it to Comcast Center for the state semifinals. Most of the players were on the same middle school team that went undefeated and won a championship.
“If North Point can do it, we can do it,” Mcleod said of the Eagles, who reached the 2012-13 4A semifinals. “We’re not trying to set lower standards. We’re trying to reach as high as possible.”
The Hornets stepped up their tempo in practice and over the summer with a handful of team camps and workouts. Mcleod averaged 11 points last season and the 6-1 senior is now bringing in 20 each game. Melquan Williams, Diontae Shorter and CJ Sampson are all hovering around the 10-point range.
The Hornets went into Friday’s game at Huntingtown (1-2) knowing that they needed to remain focused and show consistency. Mcleod and Sampson both scored 15 points in a 67-54 win to set the tone going into the Governor’s Challenge Basketball Tournament in Wicomico during winter break.
“We’re about staying on the grind,” Mcleod said.
Westlake (2-1) made up for the late loss to Great Mills with a stunning game-winner of its own in overtime against Thomas Stone (3-3). Senior guard Desi Wiseman made a three-pointer with 2 1/2 seconds left in the first overtime period for an 80-79 win.
“It was a big confidence booster to show that we can win a close game, especially after Great Mills,” Coach Edward Mouton said.
The win allowed the Wolverines to avenge a playoff loss to the Cougars in the region semifinal last season. Junior guard and first-year varsity player Dominic Espeleta scored a team-high 17 points. Forward Omar Alston, who is also in his first year on varsity, is averaging nearly a double-double through three games.
Mouton, a longtime basketball coach in the conference, is looking to amp up the level of competition in his second year as coach. The Wolverines will play in the Waldorf Holiday Hoops Classic and face Goretti and No. 4 Riverdale Baptist later this season.
“I’m trying to challenge my players and get them ready for playoffs,” Mouton said.
No. 16 Calvert (5-1) ended its 2013 regular season with a 65-29 win against Northern (2-2). The Cavaliers will host Chopticon Jan. 17. Calvert faces Spalding, which held off Westlake 43-40 Saturday, in the IAABO tournament Dec. 26. The Wolverines are 3-2 but have yet to lose to a conference opponent. . . .
North Point (5-0) takes on nationally-ranked St. Mary’s of Stockton, Calif., in the Triple Threat Invitational at D.C. Armory on Dec. 28.