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ROCKVILLE – There were 30 seconds left on the game clock on the 3A West sectional semifinals playoff game between Magruder and Blake boys varsity high school basketball teams on March 4.
The score was tied at 53 apiece. The Bengals had just erased a nine-point Magruder lead to pull even with the home team. It appeared as though overtime was imminent.
If it was not for the Magruder’s Malik Abudu, perhaps the rowdy crowd would have been treated to an overtime game, and maybe Blake could have had a second chance. But the senior ripped through the paint, and his layup hit its mark.
With seven seconds left, Blake senior guard Ezana Fekere took aim from behind the arc for what would have been the game-winning 3-pointer. The shot fell short, and Magruder advanced to the next round of the playoffs by a score of 55-53.
“We were just trying to get a good shot, and I just got the ball and my teammates spaced out and let me do what I do best: finish at the rim,” said Abudu of his game-winning bucket. “I was thinking that we needed to win. I’m not trying to go home.”
The Magruder bench poured onto the court to embrace Abudu and the student section followed suit.
Magruder had managed to hang on and return the favor by beating Blake with a last-second shot in a close game; after all, in both regular season games between the two squads earlier this year, the Bengals had won in a similar fashion. This time, though, the losing team would be going home.
Those two close losses weighed on the mind of Magruder forward Ebby Asamoah, whose ferocity in the paint led to 16 points and several offensive and defensive rebounds. Asamoah maintained his intensity the entire game, and his boundless energy resulted in multiple Blake shot attempts being batted out of the air.
“I was pumped up. We lost to Blake twice on buzzer-beaters, so I was really hyped up for this game,” said Asamoah. “My mindset was for everyone to just give it all we had. I kind of had to step up and show the aggression from the start and set the pace for my teammates.”
On the other side of the ball, the Bengals kept the game close in the first half as junior Raef Hetherington unleashed fancy footwork to spin away from defenders and registered eight points in the second quarter.
Magruder sophomore Rashid Abudu answered with a skill showcase of his own, as he juked defenders on several occasions and caused his teammates on the bench to gleefully jump to their feet.
However, a slow fourth-quarter start by the Colonels allowed Blake to go on an 8-2 run and creep up on Magruder’s lead. With emotions running high both on and off the court, a pair of late fouls sent first Fekere and then Hetherington to the free-throw line.
The Bengals fought for offensive rebounds and earned three second-chance shots before Blake senior Dorian Hurd dropped the trey that tied the game.
Even though overtime was not in the cards, Blake Head Coach Dondrell Whitmore stated that the Bengals would have welcomed a post-regulation period.
“It would have been nice, to give us another opportunity at it. It would have been nice,” said Whitmore. “It’s a learning experience, and Magruder kept their composure and hit the last second shot. The previous two games that we played we were on the other end of the last second shot, so statistically trying to beat a team three times in a row in one season is kind of hard.”
The Colonels now must prepare to host Carroll County’s Westminster on March 6. The Owls narrowly defeated their sectional semifinals opponent Rockville by just three points, 54-51, on March 4.