By Kevin O’Rourke
Five days prior to their season opening game, Northwest High School’s new Boys Head Coach Robert Smith said he was unsure who his starters would be for the season.
“There are a few players returning, but to be honest I couldn’t tell you who was a starter, who came off the bench,” said Smith in an email on Thursday. “We are coming in with a clean slate, in my eyes every player is fighting for a position whether you played last year or never have been on the team.”
Last night in the Seneca Valley High School gym every player, on both teams, was fighting for a win as the Jaguars defeated Seneca Valley, 71-70 in an overtime thriller on a foul shot by Quincy Ofori with 2.8 seconds remaining.
The Seneca Valley squad, playing their second game after suffering a 65-44 loss to Quince Orchard on Friday night, jumped out to a 16-7 lead with just under six minutes remaining in the second half. The Jags would close the gap, but Seneca Valley would lead by four, 26-22 at half-time.
The Screaming Eagles would continue to outshoot the Jags stretching their lead to 41-33 with 24-seconds left in the third quarter. The Jags continued to chip away, tying the game from the free-throw line, 52-52, after the Jags Tim Biakapia was fouled by Seneca’s sophomore guard Brandon Simpson.
In the final 1:40 of regulation the lead would change hands four times, as both teams would hit from outside and make free-throws down the stretch. Northwest was up by three with 1.7 seconds remaining, but Seneca’s leading scorer, junior forward William Craig was fouled attempting a shot from three-point land. Craig would nail all three shots from the charity stripe to send the game into overtime tied at 63.
Craig would finish as the Screaming Eagles leading scorer earning a double-double with 28 points and 13 rebounds. Simpson would finish with 19 points, for Seneca.
Craig would pick up in the OT right where the regulation ended, by hitting a runner to give Seneca Valley a 65-63 lead. Northwest would answer with a field goal, and Craig would put the Eagles back on top with a lay-up with 2:16 remaining in OT.
Northwest’s Masangu Mbayo would make the back end of a one-and-one to cut the lead to 67-66. Northwest would take the lead thanks to Quincy Ofori’s lay-up, but Seneca would come right back with two-points from Craig to retake the lead 69-68. With just under a minute left to in OT, Seneca’s Deonte Nelson would make the half of a one-and-one to increase the lead to 70-68.
Northwest would tie the game with 25:2 seconds remaining in overtime on a third-shot rebound put-back by Tyrell Richardson.
Seneca would have a chance to take the lead with 8.4 seconds remaining as Craig was fouled by Northwest’s Reagan Zamena, but the junior would miss both shots. Northwest would secure the rebound and point guard Quincy Ofori would be fouled by Seneca Valley’s Brandon Simpson with 2.4 seconds remaining in overtime. Ofori would sink the back end of the one-and-one to give the Jags the lead and the victory, 71-70.
Both Germantown teams have new head coaches who are trying to rebuild the programs. Both teams are young with few seniors on the floor. Head coaches, Smith from Northwest and Brian Humphries of Seneca Valley are quick to point out that both programs have a long way to go to gain experience and improve.
“We are a very young team, mostly sophomores and juniors,” said Humphries in an email prior to the game. “So we will take everything one game at a time in terms of goals. We will work to play solid defense, rebound, and score in transition.”
Coach Smith of Northwest said, “There are no easy games in MCPS and every night you have to be ready to go. We want to compete at the highest level we can and if we do the little things we will be successful. It will be a tough year, because the competition is always good in MCPS. I know we are looking forward to a very competitive season.” Smith said he was waiting for a number of Northwest football players, fresh off their championship win on Friday, to join the team this week.
The win over Seneca Valley on Tuesday night improves Northwest to 10-4 over the cross town rivals. The Screaming Eagles haven’t been able to best the Jags since 2008.
Both teams are coming off disappointing seasons last year, Northwest ended the 2013-2014 season 5-19, while Seneca Valley was 1-20 last year. Seneca Valley will host Gaithersburg on Friday at 7:00 pm and Northwest will host Damascus at 7:00 pm on Friday.
On the girl’s side, Seneca Valley defeated Northwest 47-34, for the first time since 2009 and improve their series record to 3-6. The Lady Screaming Eagles are now 1-1 this season. The Seneca girls lost to Quince Orchard, on Friday night 67-23. The Northwest Ladies will travel to Damascus, while Seneca Valley will travel to Gaithersburg both games are Friday at 7:00 pm.
Top: Northwest’s Quincy Ofori (5) takes a jump shot, while being defended by Seneca Valley’s Brandon Simpson (3) near the end of overtime in Northwest’s 71-70 victory over Seneca Valley on Tuesday night.
Next: Seneca Valley’s William Craig (24) drives to the hoop for two of his 28 points.
Next: Northwest’s Justin Woodard (32) is guarded by Seneca Valley’s William Craig (24).
Next: Seneca Valley’s Andrew Dantzler (11) and Northwest’s Donnie Gaines (11) battle for the ball.
Next: Seneca’s freshman guard Triston Price (12) drives the lane for a lay-up, while being defended by Northwest’s Donnie Gaines (11) and Nick Pinto (23).
Next: William Craig (24) makes three clutch foul shots to force the game into overtime.
Photos by Germantown Pulse.