By Eva Paspalis @EvaPaspalis
SILVER SPRING — The 2018 high school basketball season may have just begun, but that didn’t stop the Blake Bengals boys varsity basketball team from packing the stands full of raucous fans when they hosted their archrival and Northeast Consortium nemesis, the Springbrook Blue Devils, on Tuesday.
The heated, highly emotional game seesawed between the two teams for three-and-a-half quarters before the Bengals (2-1) pulled ahead late in the fourth quarter to make sure Springbrook opened its season with a loss, 63-57.
The Bengals took full advantage of their bench, rotating multiple players and giving everyone an opportunity to contribute. In fact, eight different Bengals scored in the third quarter alone. Senior guard Ezana Fekere led the charge, earning points off of Springbrook turnovers and driving hard to the basket. Fekere finished with a game-high 20 points.
“We have a deep bench, so me being able to play a lot of guys and having a lot of guys out there wearing out the other team, that’s what helped us out tonight, was my bench,” said Blake head coach Dondrell Whitmore. “This is one of the biggest rivalries in Montgomery County right now so it was good to come out and see this kind of game.”
The Blake defense contained Timitrius Hawkins, usually Springbrook’s most prolific scorer, and held him to just one bucket the entire game. However, junior guard Marcus Davis and freshman guard Amare Curtis stepped up in Hawkins’ place and registered a combined 30 points.
Fast breaks and highlight-reel plays from both squads dominated the first half. Blake senior guard Terrill Simms treated the crowd to a one-handed dunk and went to the ground in the process. Springbrook forward Daouda Dembele leaped in front of Fekere and denied his shot under the basket.
The Blue Devils opened the second half with a seven-point scoring run that capitalized on their one-point lead at halftime. However, the Bengals came roaring back to tie the game before Curtis hit back-to-back three-pointers to put Springbrook back in the lead.
Simms hit the go-ahead jumper for the Bengals and then junior Anton Sanders landed a trey as time expired in the third quarter to extend Blake’s lead to four points heading into the final period.
“We needed to rebound and pressure the ball and get those easy steals,” said Curtis. “Just on the defensive end we didn’t stop the guard.”
Even though Davis and Curtis combined for three buckets from behind the arc in the fourth quarter, Fekere kept escaping the Springbrook defense and handing in layup after layup to keep the Bengals out in front as the seconds ticked away.
In the end, Fekere’s last-minute heroics denied Springbrook’s comeback and the Blue Devils started the season with a 0-1 record.
Curtis, who has the distinction of being Springbrook’s only freshman varsity player, appeared unfazed by the early season loss.
“We have Whitman on Friday and we should do better then,” he said. “As a freshman, I’m trying to do big things this year. Coming from middle school and eighth grade and going up to varsity, I’m trying to do big things. I’ve worked hard for this all my life.”