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SANDY SPRING -With about one minute remaining in the third quarter, Sherwood High School junior Evan Long caught a pass and squared up for another 3-point attempt. Lee had been hot all night, and Walter Johnson High School head coach Kevin Parrish wasn’t sure why he was all alone around the three-point line.
“Why is he so wide open?” Parrish blurted out.
Sure enough, Long drained another three, one of six he hit in the game. That hot three-point shooting, along with an unrelenting offense, powered the home team Warriors (11-8) to an 84-64 win over the Wildcats (15-7) on senior night on Feb. 15. It was the fourth straight win for Sherwood, and the sixth in seven games after a 5-7 start to the season.
“The last three games, we’ve shot extremely well from outside shooting threes and getting easy baskets,” Sherwood head coach Thomas Sheahin said. “I’m excited about that. We’re just starting to click at the right time.”
It was a balanced effort for Sherwood, who had three scorers in double figures. Senior Eddie O’Brien led all scorers with 20 points, while Long added 18 points, all on three-pointers, and senior JD Jordan chipped in 14.
The Warriors were able to play inside-out all night, complimenting their strong half-court offense by running off of missed shots and finishing in transition.
“It was key to make sure we pushed it so they couldn’t set up their defense,” O’Brien said about pushing the tempo. “We kept them on their heels.”
But despite the efficient night, Sheahin said it all boiled down to defense. Sherwood came up well short against Walter Johnson in a scrimmage in November, and he said his team has improved leaps and bounds defensively since then.
“Early on this season we couldn’t cover anybody,” Sheahin said. “But playing man-to-man, teaching it, working it every day in practice, it’s starting to click too at the right time. Our best offense is our defense, and they’re starting to buy into that.”
The Warriors went with five seniors to start the game, setting the tone for the rest of the night. After missing their first two shots, Sherwood hit six straight to build an 18-11 lead. The Wildcats answered back with seven straight points to tie the game, but that’s when the Warriors three-point barrage kicked in. Long drained consecutive threes at the end of the quarter, and Sherwood led 24-20. The Warriors would connect from beyond the arc all night, hitting 15 three-pointers in the game.
“Sometimes a team gets hot and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it,” Parrish said. “Some of them were looks where we kept leaving the same kid wide open, but I think we could’ve done things like come out on the shooters and make them put it on the floor.”
Walter Johnson cut the lead to 29-26 in the second quarter, but Sherwood responded with a 10-0 run that would put the game away for good. The Wildcats got as close as nine later in the first half, but never got closer than 11 in the second.
Senior forward Hank Roll scored a team-high 16 points for Walter Johnson, while sophomore guard Philip Stubin was the only other Wildcat in double-figures, finishing with 13 points.
With Walter Johnson already locking up the No. 1 seed in the MPSSAA 4A South Region, and with Sherwood still trying to compete with Blair and Northwood for a home game in the first round of the 4A East Region playoffs, Parrish knew his team would be in a tough spot for this game. The Wildcats hadn’t looked as sharp the last few days in practice, and he said his team struggled to match the Warriors’ intensity from the opening tip.
“The biggest message in the (locker room) was [to] be disappointed tonight because we didn’t come out with the same intensity, but we still have everything we want to accomplish in front of us,” Parrish said. “I hope this helps refocus us for the next couple of weeks going forward.”