POTOMAC – Wootton faced Churchill in a battle of archrivals in a Maryland 4A high school boys basketball regional finals matchup.
In a competitive affair with multiple lead changes, the Patriots hung on for the stunning 68-63 victory over the top-seeded Bulldogs to advance to the state quarterfinals.
“It’s a rival for a reason,” said Wootton head coach Erick Graves. “Churchill’s really good, but for our guys to overcome and have the opportunity to have this experience, I’m just so happy for them.”
This win marks the Patriots’ third straight victory over a rival in the playoffs, including Walter Johnson in the first round and Whitman in the second.
Yassine Idrissa finished as Wootton’s leading scorer with 20 points, 10 in each half.
“It means a lot for us,” said Idrissa. “Coming in, everyone thought we were the underdogs; it meant a lot to come out here and win this game, especially for the seniors.”
Peter Stanton-Shepherd played excellently, scoring 17 points, including five 3-pointers.
“Credit to Churchill,” said Stanton-Shepherd. “They’ve been unbeatable recently, so it feels great to come in here and beat our rivals who beat us early in the year.”
Meanwhile, Isaiah Mbeng led the Bulldogs with 22 total points in the contest.
Churchill also had three other players finish in double figures, including Nick Goldberg with 13 points, Ben Ash with 12 points, and Ryan Calkins with 10 points.
Both teams traded bucket after bucket, rebounded well and played solid defense.
The Patriots led the Bulldogs 12-11 at the end of the first quarter, with Mbeng accounting for nine points.
The game remained close in the second quarter with Churchill regaining momentum.
Ash scored all 12 points on four 3-pointers in the second quarter as the Bulldogs led 35-27 at halftime.
However, Wootton fought back to score eight unanswered points to tie it up at 35 apiece, as the game was back-and-forth heading into the fourth.
Up by one with 90 seconds left, Stanton-Shepard hit a 3-pointer that turned out to be the dagger and put the Patriots up by four.
“My teammates and coaches were giving me confidence to shoot the ball and do what I do,” said Stanton-Shepherd. “I stepped into it confidently, knocked it down, and from there, we were able to execute down the stretch.”
Wootton’s lead had extended to eight points with under 10 seconds left, and not even a late Mbeng 3-pointer was enough for the Bulldogs as the home crowd was stunned.
“It means a lot to come this far,” said Idrissa. “We’ve just got to keep playing and keep our heads up.”
Despite the heartbreaking loss, Churchill head coach Dave Blumenthal is proud of how his team played during the whole season, especially the senior class.
“My guys never quit,” said Blumenthal. “We had a lot of adversity and a lot of things that didn’t go our way, but these guys know they’re a resilient bunch.”