COLLEGE PARK – On March 9, Richard Montgomery High School was on a high: its boys’ basketball team won its first regional title since 1967. The players were showered with praise, cheers and support from their classmates and the campus community.
Fast forward to March 14 in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) boys’ basketball state semifinals: As the clock was winding down, the Rocket players watched on as their fans gave their players a solemn standing ovation.
Before time expired, Head Coach David Breslaw quickly gave each one of his players a thank you high-five before heading to the locker room.
After 52 year-hiatus, Richard Montgomery returned to the state semifinals and played a competitive matchup against East Broadneck. However, the dream of a state championship returning to the Rockville school was dashed as three Bruins scored double-figures for Broadneck to earn a 72-57 victory, ending Richard Montgomery’s season.
The Rockets arrived with one loss on their resume this season and were looking to make their first state finals appearance in over 50 years. Meanwhile, Broadneck, coached by John Williams, were making their first appearance since their own state title run in 1990.
The Anne Arundel County squad found their way early, scoring two 3-pointers and taking a six-point lead into the second quarter. With less than a second on the clock and fellow senior Mike Cantrell inbounding the ball, the Bruins’ Jamar Young tapped in a quick shot, beating the quarter-ending buzzer.
Broadneck continued their offensive assault prior to halftime with fast breaks caused by outrebounded Richard Montgomery, 43-37. Senior captain Djordje Orcev tried to keep his team in the game, converting his only 3-pointer and finishing the game with a double-double performance of 13 points and 13 rebounds.
However, it would be the size difference of center Logan Vican (6-foot-9) and forward Nick Gatton (6-foot-6) that provided the advantage for Broadneck. They would use their height to block passing lanes with their outstretched hands, creating turnovers for the Bruins. Vican had himself a double-double performance as well, by collecting 10 rebounds and tying for a game-high 19 points. Broadneck would enter halftime up by 34-23.
Broadneck would come out of halftime rushing for an 8-3 run and making the Rockets’ already large deficit even more unattainable. Young and guard Che Colbert continued scoring at will, at the rim while Richard Montgomery did not have any answers to stop their offensive assault. Colbert would finish scoring 19 points and had three steals while Young had 18 points.
“I got to give a lot of credit to Broadneck,” Breslaw said. “We watched a considerable amount of tape on them, but we did not remember watching them hitting that many 3’s, that many free throws, cutting the way they do and executing on offense.”
Despite the Rockets’ finding their offensive ways in the second half, they finished the third quarter down by 13 points. Vican converted a midrange 3-pointer, as more role players stepped in to help Broadneck deliver the final blow.
Sophomore guard Ryan Cornish, who scored a game-winning buzzer-beating shot against Gaithersburg in the regional semifinals for Richard Montgomery on March 6, awoke in the second half, scoring six points. Meanwhile, center Miles Gally tried to use his 6-foot-9 frame to limit offense by the Bruins’ post players.
Sophomore Kordell Lewis attempted to shoulder the offense with his team-high 18 points, but time was running out on Richard Montgomery’s state title dreams.
“To be honest with you, I was too happy about the buzzer beater (vs. Gaithersburg),” Cornish said about his performance since the regional semifinals. “I’ve played like shit since then… I had 20 points then, nine points (during the regional round) and now, I have zero assists too, which is the worse stat of them all, and I have to improve on that.”
Richard Montgomery never led in the contest and when the game was over, the players slowly walked off the court and into the locker room. With the loss, three of their seniors, including Orcev and Gally, played their final games in a Rocket uniform.
“(Broadneck) really came to play, and this was definitely a different experience,” said Breslaw. “And it is something our program will really much value and profit off of in the future.”
Following the heartbreaking defeat, Breslaw and his players thanked the Richard Montgomery community for embracing them since the start of their playoff run, especially after the regional title win. All the praise and excitement surrounding the team were a burst of school pride that the team had never felt before from their classmates, he added.
Breslaw said the joy of the school and its alumni coming from his team’s success will be something that the younger Rocket players will cherish and use as motivation next season.
“Our school community embraced the team so much, and it has been an amazing experience playing basketball and bringing the school together and creating this environment where the school wants to win more,” Orcev said.
“It hurts to lose and in the locker room, we have to keep our heads up and think about a positive future but this whole season was a positive and a step forward for our program and our school.”