Mbeng’s game-winner helps Churchill win second Montgomery Co. title

[See more photos from the county championships here!]

ROCKVILLE – Churchill and Damascus high schools met in the inaugural Montgomery County boys basketball Championship game last year. The Bulldogs, representing 4A, pulled away with the victory against the Swarmin’ Hornets.

This week, the two schools met again in the 2023 edition following impressive seasons by both teams. However, the outcome remained the same as Isaiah Mbeng hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer to lift Churchill to a 53-50 victory for its second county championship.

The senior, largely quiet for large stretches, came up huge at the end, sinking a 3-pointer for the victory.

“It was a play for me to get to my spot and make a shot,” Mbeng, who finished with 10 points, said. “Defense was sagging off a little bit, so I got to my stepback and knocked it down.”

February 22, 2023: Churchill defeats Damascus on a last-second 3-point shot to claim the 2023 Montgomery County championship. (Mike Clark/The Sports Pulse)

Nick Goldberg led the Bulldogs with 15 points, 13 of which came in the second half featuring three 3-pointers.

“We have a lot of those boxes on our goal list,” said Churchill head coach Dave Blumenthal. “We had a fortunate enough good regular season to be in it and defend the title.”

Damascus possessed the game’s momentum by the end of the first half and most of the third quarter. Peter Mangan scored a team-high 13 points to help the Swarmin’ Hornets’ advantage.

Very late in the contest, Todd Dileo hit a free throw to put the Hornets up by one, but then Ryan Calkins converted a shot to put the Bulldogs ahead again. Dileo scored another free throw to tie the game at 50 with 22 seconds left.

“We knew that they were a very talented group of guys,” said Goldberg. “We just had to come out and work very hard in practice all week. That’s what we were focusing on.”

With the last possession, Mbeng dribbled the ball until scoring the winning shot as time expired for the win.

“Isaiah never quits,” said Blumenthal. “He would be able to get us in the best position, so we just had Isaiah set us up and knock down the huge shot.”

“Defending champs, going back-to-back always feels good,” said Mbeng. “We live for these moments, and today we were able to get it done.”

February 22, 2023: Churchill defeats Damascus on a last-second 3-point shot to claim the 2023 Montgomery County championship. (Mike Clark/The Sports Pulse)

Now heading into the postseason, Churchill has a first-round bye in the Maryland 4A playoffs, as they will await their opponent for a regional semifinal matchup on Feb. 28.

“Obviously, winning this game provides a lot of momentum for them,” said Blumenthal. “We’ll rest up some of those knick-and-nagging injuries during the regular season, and we’ll start to prime up after we see who we play.”

Meanwhile, Damascus enters the playoffs losing two straight, including losing its first game of the season, falling to Walter Johnson in its regular season finale.

Despite this, the Swarmin’ Hornets will also have a first-round bye in the Maryland 3A playoffs.

“Churchill’s really good,” said Damascus head coach Brian Humphrey. “We’ll look to take the positives from this game and make sure we use those as motivation going forward.”

Photos by Mike Clark/The Sports Pulse.

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