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ROCKVILLE – Walter Johnson Head Coach Kevin Parrish is back in the saddle again.
Parrish, a former head coach at Gaithersburg, is guiding Walter Johnson to the top of the division in his first season at the helm of the Bethesda public school.
“Kevin’s got a great group over at Walter Johnson,” said Wootton Head Coach Erick Graves. “He’s done a heck of a job with them this year. He’s got a lot of energy over there. Those kids are playing extremely hard for him. He’s coaching well and they’re doing a great job.”
On Friday night, Philip Stubin led four Walter Johnson players in double figures with 19 points in the Wildcats’ 73-66 road victory over Wootton. Abdel Nasser (12 points), Spencer Mahne (12 points) and Hank Roll (12 points) also finished in double figures for the Wildcats who improved to 14-5.
“Their guard play is really, really good,” said Wootton senior True Johnson. “They didn’t turn the ball over. They made smart decisions. They shot the ball well so they’re a pretty good team, definitely one of the better teams in Montgomery County.”
Stubin, Nasser and Roll helped Walter Johnson build a 23-16 first quarter advantage before Wootton rallied in the second quarter, outscoring the Wildcats, 19-16.
Walter Johnson led 39-35 at halftime but Wootton made a serious run in the second half thanks to Johnson who canned a 3-pointer with 7:17 remaining in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 39-38. The Wildcats got major contributions from their bench late in the game and that proved to be the difference down the stretch.
“I thought Josh Forburger did a great job in the fourth quarter like coming in off the bench,” said Parrish. “He made a couple really huge plays which he just seems to do. He doesn’t play the most minutes but when we need a big play he’s always the guy that steps up.”
Meanwhile, Harrison Cance scored a game-high 25 points for Wootton and Garrett Koch finished with 15 points for the Patriots. Wootton rallied behind the heroics of Cance who converted a three-point play with 5:45 remaining in the fourth period to tie the game at 57 apiece.
“He gets the job done,” said Graves. “He’s terrific as a leader. He’s terrific with his teammates. He’s just been a terrific, pleasant addition back in the locker room.”
However, Wootton played without the services of Kevin Ayissi-Etoh who was sidelined with a leg injury. Ayissi-Etoh, a senior who has drawn some interest from Division I college programs, has been an integral part of the Patriots’ arsenal when healthy.
“He’s a big part of our team,” said Johnson. “He handles the ball, he shoots the ball. He’s like the main focus for other teams as well. They collapse on him so he opens up shots for other players as well.”
Johnson, a college prospect, has been a major contributor for the Patriots in Ayissi-Etoh’s absence. The versatile 6-foot-5 senior finished with 11 points in the losing effort.
“He’s been terrific,” said Graves. “He came in last year. He’s grown so much as a person and as a player over this past year and a half with us. His game is special out there, he’s able to shoot the basketball.”
For Parrish, a former Whitman assistant, expectations for his team at Walter Johnson will be high this year as he looks forward to the postseason.
“If we win out then we’re the No. 1 seed,” said Parrish, “so that’s our goal.”