Magruder Defeats County Rival Sherwood in State Championship Semifinals

by Eric Meany

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Sherwood High School boys basketball team went on a 17-8 run in the last 1:50 of the fourth quarter to force overtime after trailing for most of the game, but Magruder dominated the extra period and came away with a 75-68 victory in the semifinals of the MPSSAA Class 4A State Championship Tournament at the Comcast Center on Thursday night.

Senior guard Scott Bolen sank a long 3-pointer to tie the game with 4.8 seconds left in regulation, then hit a free-throw six seconds into overtime to give the Warriors (17-9) their only lead since early in the first quarter before watching the Colonels (25-1) take control the rest of the way.

Magruder guard J.J. Epps scored six of his 16 points in the four-minute overtime period, helping the Colonels finally take control of a game that seemed on the verge of slipping away.

“When the overtime came, I just felt like we had to pick up the energy,” Epps said. “On the bench a couple of our players had long faces, so I felt like we just had to pick up the intensity a little.”

The score was tied at 61 with 3:30 left in the overtime period before Epps sank consecutive jump shots to give the Colonels a lead they would maintain the rest of the way.

“He’s the toughest 5’ 4” kid you’ll ever see,” Magruder coach Dan Harwood said of Epps. “He hit those two big pull-up jump shots to start the overtime and that really gave us the boost I thought we needed.”

The Colonels have now won 25 consecutive games since opening the season with a 75-58 loss at DeMatha on Dec. 6.

Nick Griffin led Magruder with 19 points, while Justin Witmer added 18 points to go with a team-high seven rebounds and three blocked shots for the Colonels. Bolen led all scorers with 26 points, and Charlie Rogers added 22 for Sherwood before fouling out with 19.5 seconds to play in regulation.

Magruder led 28-19 at halftime, but the Warriors pulled to within three points with just less than a minute to play in the third quarter. The Colonels finished the period with a flourish, though, as Cameron Royster followed a Witmer basket with a steal and a layup to put Magruder up 42-35.

The fourth quarter was a free-throw-shooting extravaganza, with 27 of the period’s 39 total points scored from the foul line. Magruder did not score a single point from the field in the quarter, and Sherwood took advantage by outscoring the Colonels 23-16 to erase the seven-point deficit and force overtime.

This was the third meeting between these teams this season, with Magruder winning 76-59 at Sherwood on Dec. 16 and 66-53 at home on Feb. 17.

Warriors coach Dondrell Whitmore said he was proud of the way his team battled their Montgomery County rivals Thursday.

“My guys played 100 percent,” Whitmore said. “I can go home and sleep at night knowing that these guys left everything they had on the court.”

Magruder will meet Eleanor Roosevelt High School in the 4A final at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Comcast Center. Earlier Thursday night, the Raiders topped defending 4A champion North Point, 65-63. Senior guard Akil Charles hit a driving layup in the final seconds to give Roosevelt the victory in what was a tightly contested game from start to finish.

The Colonels and the Raiders met once earlier this season, with the Magruder earning a 64-45 win on Dec. 27. Despite the large margin of victory in that game, Witmer said the Colonels will not take Roosevelt lightly.

“Roosevelt is a real tough team, they’re real physical,” he said. “They have a couple of pretty good players, and they’re going to give us a good game in the championship. Hopefully we can step up and do what we need to do.”

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