DERWOOD – A double-overtime thriller in summer league basketball was something neither Walter Johnson High School nor their opponents, Albert Einstein, were expecting on June 17.
However, their matchup in Montgomery County Road Summer Basketball League turned into a nail-biter enjoyed by the smattering of spectators at Magruder High School’s gym. By the end of the night, both teams gained and lost the lead multiple times until the Wildcats held on for the 54-50 win.
Both teams were playing with squads that were different from their regular season teams. Walter Johnson, for example, lost 10 seniors to graduation and brought up new players from their junior varsity.
“We had 10 graduating seniors, so a lot of the new guys had to step up. We’re building the chemistry well,” said Walter Johnson rising junior shooting guard Zach Miller.
While these games were largely seen as scrimmages in preparation for the winter season nearly six months away, they highlighted potential stars for both teams. The strategies drawn up in the match were a beta test for what could come in winter and what should be taken out before the season starts.
“Our team is really young, but summer league is a time for improvement and chemistry building as a team. And I felt like we did exactly what we needed tonight,” said Walter Johnson’s rising junior guard Philip Stubin. Stubin scored 23 points, leading both teams as the highest scorer.
Walter Johnson started a strict man-on-man defense that held on for most of the first half until Einstein figured them out and drew more space to pass. A transition to a zone defense was inevitable and covered most of Einstein’s threats.
The first half saw Walter Johnson hit first, but Einstein took the lead and ran with it until halftime. At their highest, the Titans held the Wildcats to a 13-point margin in the first half.
Right after Einstein reached that point, Stubin went on a seven-point run to narrow the gap and enter into the second half down by six points. The Wildcats shot 3-pointers with abundance, and for the last few minutes of the first half, made Einstein work for possession.
A 12-point run by Stubin and Miller started the second half and gave Walter Johnson back the lead. After their run, the game turned against for Einstein, as they struggled to hit enough shots.
However, Einstein stayed in the game to keep the score margin narrow enough to be able to take the lead at any moment, putting Walter Johnson on edge.
“Shots weren’t falling in the first half. So, we just talked about when that happens, that they need to be more aggressive and take the ball to the basket,” said Walter Johnson Head Coach Kevin Parrish.
Einstein’s defense focused mainly on Stubin; it employed double-teaming him to mitigate the damage he proved he could cause. The hasty defensive strategy proved effective, as Stubin scored only twice after helping in the 12-point run early in the half. Ironically, Stubin had his highest-scoring period of the game in the second half with 10 points.
With both teams tied at 48 points at the end of regulation, the game headed into its first overtime period. Both teams scored two points; Einstein had a chance to end it but botched two free-throw shots.
The second overtime period saw Stubin and Miller go on a six-point run to start the period. Einstein could respond only with two points from Jones, and a last-second hustle by the Titans fizzled out to finally end the game. Stubin was followed by Einstein rising senior guard Andres Jones and Miller, with 16 and 11 points respectively.
“They’re a good team, they’re a talented team, number 31 (Stubin) is a good point guard and we fought hard to double OT,” said Jones. “I think that down the stretch it was rebounding that really killed us.”