JJ Epps was the biggest kid on the court on Saturday night. The 5’4” guard willed the talented Magruder squad to victory at the Comcast Center in the 4A finals, sinking 4 free throws in the 45 seconds to seal the deal on his way to earning MVP honors. Epps led all scorers with 13 points and did an incredible job as the floor general in the loud and exciting environment.
When the opening jump ball went up, it sounded like a Maryland-Duke game inside the Comcast center. One can only imagine how those butterflies felt inside the Magruder and Roosevelt players with crowd so fired up and with the state finals on the line.
The first 3 minutes of the game were a jittery mess for both teams. Neither team seemed comfortable in their own skin out on the famous floor. It wasn’t until 4 minutes in that BJ Antoine, of Eleanor Roosevelt hit 2 free throws to tie the game at 2 apiece and get the game going.
That point marrked the start of a back and forth half that featured 12 lead changes. Eleanor Roosevelt held the largest lead of the half when Enuoma Ebinum made a fast break layup mid-way through the 2nd to go up 15-11. Nearing the end of the half, Nick Griffin, Magruder’s star guard scored his only points of the game to go up 1, 20-19. Griffin seemed to be Eleanor Roosevelt’s big concern on the defensive end, which freed up JJ and allowed him to create.
Magruder started the 3rd with a 2 point lead and decided that they had had enough of swapping leads for a while. The Colonels went on a 7-2 to run to start the 3rd quarter, highlighted by 2 JJ Epps pull-up jumpers, and accented by a Jon bass 3 pointer.
Down 9 with 2 minutes to go in the 3rd, Eleanor Roosevelt knew they needed to dig deep if they wanted to have a shot at winning the title. They showed up right then there, hitting back to back buckets, one by Malachi Alexander and the other by Akil Charles, to cut the lead to 3 heading into the 4th.
Then Charles opened up the 4th quarter with a bold 2 pointer in the face of Epps to cut the lead to 1. Magruder answered just like they have all season. Garland Owens had a nice put back deuce and Justin Witmer followed it up with a 3 ball to go back up 6 with 4:00 to play.
Eleanor Roosevelt hung tough though. Malachi Alexander rattled off 4 consecutive points before his teammate, Chuan Miller hit a huge 3 to tie the game at 35 and send the crowd into a frenzy with 2:35 left to go. Akil Charles then hit 1 of 2 free throws to take the lead for the first time in the half with 2:00 minutes to go.
The Colonels near perfect season (their only loss was to Private school powerhouse DeMatha) was on the brink of collapse. Down 1 with 43.5 seconds to go, the 5’4” Epps took it at the Roosevelt big men and drew a foul. Then he calmly sunk both of his free throws to take the lead back. On the ensuing possession, Akil Charles lost the ball and Roosevelt was forced to foul Epps with 4.6 seconds to play. The little man came up big again, calmly sinking both free throws to push the lead to 3.
Eleanor Roosevelt’s hail mary pass down the floor was intercepted by Magruder and the Colonels could finally relax and celebrate their victory. What a fantastic season from Magruder, how about a DeMatha rematch?