By Harry Lichtman @hslichtman
SILVER SPRING — The boys basketball season began Thursday night for the visiting Poolesville Falcons of 2A and host Northwood Gladiators of 4A. The game saw many lead changes in the second half, with the Gladiators escaping with a 53-48 victory at home.
For Northwood’s third-year head coach Phil Chenier, this is the first regular season game-opener victory in his tenure. “It’s good to get the monkey off our back,” Chenier said. “We didn’t play particularly well, but the kids fought hard.”
Both teams failed to score in the first minute-and-a-half due to missed shots and traveling calls. That is, until Northwood senior Evan Gaalswyk nailed two free throws at the 6:28 mark. The low-scoring, turnover-filled first quarter resulted in the Gladiators leading 10-7 by the end.
The second quarter also saw some low scoring. The home team led 18-11, thanks to three-pointers from Gaalwyk and sophomore Nicolas Williams, as well as a vicious dunk from 6-foot-5-inch senior Bright Kari in the middle of the quarter.
However, juniors Colin Hammett and Matthew Magnani helped rally the Falcons down seven, to cut the deficit to 18-17. Poolesville had a couple of opportunities to take the lead toward the end of the half, but failed to do so.
Action in the second half intensified, as both teams traded one basket after another numerous times. In the third quarter, Poolesville eventually tied it and took the lead twice thanks to buckets from sophomore Aaron Brown and senior James Lang. Lang’s 12 points in the quarter were enough to give the Falcons a 34-31 lead heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter turned out to be a real nail-biter with more scoring. After a three-pointer from Northwood senior William Tawamba tied the game at 40-40, Raymon Washington-Battle Jr. hit a shot to give Northwood a 42-40 lead with under five minutes to go.
The Gladiators and Falcons each traded buckets for the next four minutes, with many lead changes throughout the quarter.
With under 30 seconds left, Northwood led 51-48 with possession, and the Falcons saw their chance to intentionally foul and force the home team to the free-throw line. However, things took a turn for the worse for Poolesville when a flagrant foul was called and sent Washington-Battle Jr. to the free-throw line.
Washington-Battle Jr. nailed one of two free throws, and with 16 seconds left, Poolesville tried to cut the four-point deficit down, but a missed shot attempt and rebound by Northwood sealed it.
“We’ve got to do a better job of rebounding,” said Falcons head coach Kenny Kramek. “They destroyed us on the boards that fourth quarter. I think that was the difference in the ball game.”
In the end, Kari and Gaalswyk led the way for the Gladiators with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Kari also came through on the defensive end with a few blocks.
“Bright is real long,” said Chenier. “He’s active, so he can cause some problems for a lot of people.”
Despite being on the losing end, Lang looked terrific on the court, as the senior captain registered 20 total points, including four treys.
Northwood’s second game of the year comes on the road against the Gaithersburg Trojans on Monday, Dec. 10 at 7:15 p.m., while Poolesville will look to bounce back on the road against the Wootton Patriots on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2:30 p.m.