By Matt Cohen
2016 all over again. The Bethesda Chevy-Chase held a lead in the final minute of a playoff game against the Whitman Vikings. Though B-CC didn’t play the technically sound basketball that’s required in the final minutes of a close game. B-CC turned the ball over, and fouled the Vikings twice. It allowed them to pull back within one possession, just like in 2016. On the other end, B-CC didn’t make it’s free throws, just like in 2016. In the same spot where Sam Robinson missed two crucial free throws in 2016, Elijah Wood stepped to the line. He missed the first free throw, and memories of 2016 couldn’t burn any brighter.
Wood’s second free throw swished through the net. Redemption.
In front of a raucous, sold-out, crowd, B-CC defeated Whitman 65-60 in the section championship game, advancing to the regional final.
“We just got a great combination of coaches and players and guys that believe in the program and want to win and want to be champions,” B-CC head coach Sean Tracy said.
After a first half in which the Barons and Vikings went back and forth, and the lead changed hands seemingly every possession, B-CC found themselves in a spot they haven’t been in much this season, trailing at halftime. “I was walking down with [Thomas Baer],” Miles English said. “I told him, ‘I’m not scared at all.'”
There wasn’t much nervous energy at all in the Barons locker room, despite being in an unfamiliar position. Though the third quarter began as a carbon copy of the first half. B-CC wouldn’t take long to take a 48-47 lead, but it was short lived as Joey Squeri immediately put Whitman back in front. As was the case during the first half, the lead swung back and forth in the third quarter. In fact it continued that way into the fourth quarter.
55-55, just over two minutes to play. Whitman had just tied the game. The tension in the air inside the gym was enormous.
Elijah Wood put B-CC up two as he went two for two from the free throw line. This was the start of a critical 6-0 Barons run. Capped off by a crazy sequence where Whitman left Elijah Wood all alone, English passed to him, Wood missed the dunk, but the put back from Tyler Groom was good, B-CC took a 61-55 lead with 51.6 seconds left in the game.
B-CC certainly made the final minute interesting, but Whitman wasn’t able to capitalize. The mammoth blue-and-gold clad B-CC student section leaped over the Barons bench and celebrated on the court as the clock hit zero. B-CC had won, 65-60.
The win for B-CC pushed them into the region final for the second time in four years. This year, the Barons will face Gaithersburg, the last Montgomery County team to beat the Barons, all the way back on December 15.
In such a quietly way that his head coach said he didn’t have the best night offensively, Miles English stepped up, and dominated this basketball game. English finished with a double-double: 23 points and 14 rebounds. “Really?! That was the quietest 23 ever,” Tracy exclaimed upon hearing English’s stat line.
“Every time before a game, Coach says ‘Gotta go make up for what [Gibson] brought out there.’ Especially today…I just go out there and I try to pick up for him,” English said of his performance.
B-CC was dealt a big blow earlier this week when leading scorer Gordon Gibson was ruled out for the season. The Barons needed someone to step up against Whitman, a team in which Gibson dominated in the two regular season matchups, combining for 48 points. English filled that void with his dominant performance. Most of English’s points came on heavily contested shots in the low post. English fought through contact, and made play after play for the Barons.
Though just trailing by one point at halftime, this Barons roster, which is not very deep, displayed impressive fortitude to not get anxious. They’ve had a lot of blowouts during this impressive win streak. To be able to respond in a game of this magnitude, in front of a crowd as loud as it always is in Whitman/B-CC games, cannot be understated. It’s responses like that which show what makes this group special, and what makes them a contender even without their leading scorer.
This will be B-CC’s second trip to the regional championship in the last four seasons, an impressive feat considering the state of the program when Tracy took over as the head coach. “It’s just guys buying in, getting the right combination of guys together and just really working. Even as a coach, just always trying to improve and get better.”
B-CC improved it’s overall win streak to 16 with tonight’s win. Over the last four years, B-CC is now 7-4 against the Vikings, and are currently on a three game win streak against them.
The regional championship game against Gaithersburg will be played on Saturday, March 3rd at Richard Montgomery. Tip-off is at 1:00 pm.