Number-one ranked Bethesda looked taller, faster and were definitely louder as they roared and cheered in the locker room’s hallway before entering the court for tip off.
Entering the St. James Sport Center on Tuesday, they made everyone aware they intended to win. But as the buzzer sounded in a fierce battle, the Highlanders had the final say as the team, coach and spectators jumped and cheered their victory.
In almost classic “David vs. Goliath” style, the Highlanders toppled the Blazers in a tight game that was only a two-point difference with 2:22 left in the final quarter.
It was Michael Brown leading the scores with 23 points. He made the critical three-point shots late in the third quarter to bring the Highlanders back ahead after trailing the Blazers for the first time in the game.
With only 19.5 seconds on the clock, the Blazers had the ball and were attempting to position themselves for a three-point shot to tie the game when Terrance (T.A.) Alston took the ball away from the Blazers and drove down court for the lay-up.
As the clocked ticked down, the crowd’s energy carried over to the team and the Blazers’ missed shot was rebounded by Joey Bell, who held the ball for the last tick and the buzzer.
This time Bethesda walked back to the locker room without a peep.
An emotional Highlander head coach Darrell West jumped up with joy and greeted the players with high fives.
“It feels so good,” he said. “To beat number one, you just feel good. When you see the direction your program is going from where we were last year against them to where we are now, it’s just great. Our guys stepped up and finished the game and last year we couldn’t do that against them so it’s nice to see we grew up a little bit this year and finished the game.”
For Bethesda and head coach Mickey Minick, the loss was a hard one. Throughout the game he challenged the officials call and eventually told his players to just do their best despite the referees. He knows he will get a second opportunity to face FPCA when they go to his home turf Jan. 29.
“I’ve seen FPCA play a couple of times this year and I knew they were going to be a good team,” Minick said. “They were good last year and they are even better this year. We have our hands full for our next meet but hopefully we work on some things and have a better game next time. They have a heck of a team.
When asked if he was pleased with the officials, he turned for a quick exit and a “no comment,” response.
West said he knows this battle will replay itself when they travel to Bethesda and possibly into the post season.
“I know when we play them again they’re going to come at us harder,” he said. “We will have to play that much harder but if anything, at least this year, we can say we came out with a split or hopefully better.”
Michael Brown: 23 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 assists
Joey Bell: 11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Terrence Alston: 9 points, 8 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
AJ Ansley: 4 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block
Hakeem Golden: 2 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block
Josh Rodgers: 2 points, 5 rebounds