by Jacob Bogage
Sherwood Warriors 51- Springbrook Blue Devils 48 (OT)
MPSSAA 4A North Regional Finals
The usual stars did not come out to play Saturday for the Sherwood Warriors (19-7). In fact, one left early.
With sharpshooter Scott Bolen (8 points) only 1-7 from the field and floor general Charlie Rogers fouling out halfway through the fourth quarter, it took two Warrior unknowns to pull out a win at John Barrett Court at Springbrook High School.
“I knew I had a bench,” Sherwood head coach Dondrell Whitmore said.“In the playoffs, it’s hard to play 10 guys, but I knew eventually they’d step up and play well.”
Brandon Liacono led all scorers with 20 points and pulled down 5 boards and Jason Frazier added four more points, including two clutch free throws, and 5 more rebounds to help Sherwood advance.
As Bolen, Montgomery County’s leading scorer,was held to a single point through the first half, Loiacono kept the Warriors close with 6 of his 20 points in the first two quarters. His three-pointer midway through the third quarter gave Sherwood its first lead since the Warriors were up 8-6 in the first quarter.
The junior Loiacono has emerged a Sherwood’s fourth point-provider. He averages over 10 points a game in the playoffs and earned a permanent spot on Whitmore’s starting lineup.
“I feel like I wasn’t appreciated and people underestimated me,” he said.“I just have to prove myself. I come out every practice and every game and I just work my [expletive] off to help my team the best I can.”
But by the end of the period, the Blue Devils (21-4) reclaimed a one-point lead that climbed to five as Rogers succumbed to fouls with 4:02 left. Frazier checked in for the duration of the contest and was tasked with containing Springbrook’sDemetric Austin (14 points, 19 rebounds).
After a JourdainMcCants three put the Warriors up one with under minute, the Devils held for the last shot and found Austin in the post,who was fouled with .2 seconds remaining. Shooting in the double bonus, the senior hit the first shot to tie the game then missed the second short to send the Regional Final to overtime.
Bolen won the jump over Austin to begin the extra session and the Warriors opened up a quick 5-point run, only to be answered by Charles Taylor’s layup for the Devils and a free throw from Austin with just under a minute remaining.
After McCants escaped Springbrook’s full court pressure and a half-court trap, he found Frazier, who was fouled on the left wing with around 20 seconds remaining. Frazier coolly hit both double-bonus free throws to extend the lead to four and even after Austin’s desperation fade-away three, the Warriors still led by one.
“I’m a role player. I set a lot of screens and I do it well and I put up a shot when I’m open,” Frazier said.“I love [my role tonight], though. It’s awesome. I love the feeling of being in those final minutes. I love the rush. I love rush. I love the crowd.”
Bolen hit two more foul shots to extend the margin back to three for Sherwood and Timmy Christian’s half-court prayer fell short for Springbrook, sending the Warriors back to their first “final four” in five years.
“I’ll be in an ACC locker room,” Loiacono said of the State Semi-Final to be held at University of Maryland’s Comcast Center on Thursday. “Just to get changed and get ready for a big game, that’s going to be great. I know it will.”