By Brandy L. Simms @bls1969
DAMASCUS — Monday’s matchup on the hardwood between the once-beaten Gaithersburg Trojans and the winless Damascus Swarmin’ Hornets featured Trojan sophomore standouts Jao Ituka and Jordan Hawkins along with Swarmin’ Hornets talented two-sport star Bryan Bresee.
Ituka and Hawkins, considered to be among the top players in Montgomery County, are both bonafide Division I college prospects while Bresee is a nationally-ranked Division I football recruit with offers from a variety of schools including Alabama and Ohio State.
Ituka and Hawkins combined for 40 points to lead Gaithersburg to a 62-58 road victory over Damascus.
Ituka finished with a game-high 24 points and Hawkins scored 16 points to help the Trojans capture their fourth win in five games.
“Even though it was a very tough game we were able to pull it out and win,” said Ituka.
Meanwhile, Damascus was led by Bresee’s 18 points and an unlikely hero in sophomore Chris Shaw who had a career night.
Shaw, who finished with 12 points, knocked down four three-pointers in the loss.
What’s more, Shaw was anxious to square off against Ituka, a familiar face from their AAU basketball days together.
Ituka and Shaw used to play together on head coach Tryrian Ridges’ White Oak Warriors AAU basketball squad when they were younger.
“He’s a tough player,” Ituka said about Shaw. “He’s a really good shooter and he hit a couple good shots.”
Shaw also had some kind words for his former AAU teammate, describing Ituka as a “great teammate” and “very unselfish.”
“He’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen,” said Shaw. “Great athlete. He’s going to do big things.”
Damascus led 31-30 at halftime but Gaithersburg rallied in the third quarter behind Ituka and Hawkins.
However, Bresee scored with three seconds left in the period to tie the game at 39-39 entering the final quarter.
“He’s a beast down low,” Shaw said about Bresee. “He’s going to do big things, too.”
Gaithersburg has a huge target on their back because they are the reigning regional champions and reached the Maryland 4A state semifinals earlier in March where they lost to the Perry Hall Gators, the eventual state champion.
Shaw knocked down a three-pointer with 6:46 remaining in the fourth quarter to put Damascus ahead 44-41, but Gaithersburg rallied behind their dynamic duo.
Shaw converted his fourth three-pointer with 6:07 left in the quarter to put Damascus in the driver’s seat, 47-41.
“We had a good game plan for them,” said Shaw. “Our momentum came strong and that pretty much showed up my game. The shots, the momentum, everything was going good for us.”
Hawkins scored to cut the deficit to three and Ituka stole a pass and cruised in for a dunk to cut the Damascus lead to 47-46 before Bresee’s putback and three-point play extended the Swarmin’ Hornets lead to 52-46.
However, Gaithersburg then closed out the game on a 16-6 run behind the leadership of Ituka and Hawkins along with Madela Tarke who finished with nine points.
“Gaithersburg,” said Shaw, “is probably the best team we’ve played.”