ROCKVILLE – Richard Montgomery High School boys basketball team celebrated their regional championship on March 9 by cutting down the nets in spectacular fashion following an emotional 55-51 home victory over Walter Johnson.
A scene of euphoria erupted onto the court as students and players rejoiced over a monumental victory in the school’s rich history. Richard Montgomery sophomore point guard Ryan Cornish, whose buzzer-beater against Gaithersburg on March 6 put the Rockets into the region finals, quietly beamed with pride as he scissored through the net strand by strand.
“Ryan is a great player,” said Richard Montgomery senior Djordje Orcev, who finished with a game-high 16 points. “He does everything right, and his style is developing over the years. He’s going to be really fun to watch.”
Cornish and the rest of his teammates are local heroes after guiding the Rockets to the 4A West Region and are scheduled to play 4A East champion Broadneck on March 14 at Xfinity Center.
“I’m so happy for the community and for the team,” said Orcev.
A standing-room-only crowd that featured Walter Johnson students decked out in a sea of green was on hand to cheer on the Wildcats, who enjoyed one of their finest seasons in recent memory, finishing the 2018-19 campaign at 18-7.
Walter Johnson senior Spencer Mahne connected on a 3-pointer with 6:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, which put his team ahead, 40-37, and elicited chants of “over-rated” from the passionate crowd.
However, Richard Montgomery got some spirited play down the stretch from sophomore Kordell Lewis and senior Miles Gally that catapulted the Rockets to their first appearance in a state semifinal game in 52 years. Lewis finished with 14 points, and Gally, a 6-foot-9 senior, scored 10 points for a Rockets squad that is raising some eyebrows throughout the state and around the county as well.
The Rockets also got solid contributions from sophomore Jabril Robinson and junior Harrison Oehler, who each finished with three points apiece.
“That’s been the goal forever and now it’s here, and we just got to take advantage of it,” said Gally. “We’re super-hyped.”
The win marked the first time Richard Montgomery has won a region title since the 1960s dynasty years. Those teams featured legendary players such as Willie Allen, Earl Branison, Billy Gordon and Claude Prather. The Rockets captured three consecutive regional titles from 1965-67 and won a state championship in 1966.
Richard Montgomery, who improved to 24-1, jumped out to an 18-15 lead and led 29-23 at halftime before the Wildcats stormed back behind Hank Roll and Abdel Nasser.
Roll finished with a team-high nine points, and Nasser added seven points in a losing cause. The Wildcats also got contributions from Jonathon Newman, Sean Lynch and Josh Forburger. Walter Johnson outscored the Rockets in the third quarter, 15-8, and knotted the game at 37 apiece with 6:36 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Richard Montgomery trailed by one point late in the contest, but Lewis’s jump shot with 4:45 remaining put the Rockets ahead, 41-40.
“He’s a floor general,” Orcev said about Lewis. “He knows what he’s doing, and he controls the team at such a young age. He’s a great player.”
Richard Montgomery Head Coach David Breslaw said Walter Johnson Head Coach Kevin Parrish deserved consideration for Coach of the Year honors after turning around a program that earned just four wins last season. The two teams played against each other in the season opener, and the Rockets won by 32 points, but the rematch was much more competitive.
“Clearly, they improved,” said Orcev. “They did what they needed to do to get here and credit to them for that.”