DERWOOD – Having clinched the division title – and with a matchup with Paint Branch High School the next week – there was reason for Magruder High School basketball fans to think their team might overlook a Blake High School team with only seven wins at that point.
Magruder (18-2, 7-1) proved its doubters wrong, setting a season high for points scored in a 88-69 win over Blake (8-12). Senior guard Nick Griffin led the way, hitting six 3-pointers en route to scoring a game-high 30 points.
Griffin struggled with his shooting in the first half, going only 3-of-7 from the field. He turned it on in the second half with 15 points, hitting six of his 10 field goal attempts.
“Coach was just reminding me to get my legs into it more and follow through,” Griffin said. “I knew the shots were in and out so I didn’t have to change much, just get more lift into my shot. That’s when it started going in.”
Griffin’s teammates made up for his first half struggles, as seven different Colonels connected on 3-point shots. Although Magruder coach Dan Harwood said he was not thrilled about the team’s defensive effort, he was happy with the team’s ball movement since all of the 3-pointers were made on an assist. Magruder shot 49 percent in the game.
“I think we passed the ball really well tonight,” Harwood said. “When we pass well we usually shoot well.”
Blake led the game early on, but Magruder ended the first quarter on a 13-4 run and led 17-11. Magruder also ended the second quarter on a 14-4 run to take control of the game and go into halftime with a 39-25 lead. The Blake offense was plagued by seven first-half turnovers.
Despite trailing by 18 points in the fourth quarter, Blake showed resilience and fought back to within 10 points and trailed 66-56. Griffin answered back with three 3-pointers, and Magruder ended the game on a 22-13 run to earn the 19-point victory.
Blake was led by senior guard Deshante Brown, who scored 21 points on eight-of-14 shooting, and senior guard Breon Herbert, who finished the game with 19 points.
Along with Griffin’s hot second half, senior guard J.J. Epps helped propel Magruder to victory by contributing 16 points. Throughout the second half, Epps repeatedly drove to the basket and either made layups, earned trips to the free-throw line or set up teammates for easy shots.
“This was J.J.’s sixth game back, so I think J.J was back to being J.J.,” Harwood said.
For Magruder, the last few games of the season are about getting ready for the playoffs, Harwood said. With three tough opponents in Paint Branch, Sherwood and Churchill, Harwood said he is happy his team will be challenged.