DERWOOD – Every time a player from Magruder High School took aim from behind the arc to attempt a 3-point basket, the Colonels on the bench would rise to their feet in anticipation. The players would follow the ball through the air, and if the shot met its mark, a celebration ensued a few seconds later.
The Magruder bench spent a lot of time on its feet on Jan. 3 when the Colonels hosted undefeated Damascus High School. Magruder (4-4) completed 18 3-pointers to put away Damascus and give the Hornets their first loss of the season by a score of 95-63.
The game against Damascus was the first one of the 2020 calendar year for Magruder, but it was also the first regular-season appearance for forward Chris Asamoah. The senior injured his knee in a preseason game and had been undergoing physical therapy to prepare for his return ever since.
Judging by his performance against Damascus, it appeared as though Asamoah had not missed a beat. The senior led all scorers with 23 points and accounted for six of Magruder’s 18 3-point buckets; three of those baskets came in the first quarter alone.
“That’s my guy. I’m happy for him every time he scores,” Magruder junior guard Michael Myrie said. “He brings defense, rebounding and can shoot the basketball really well.”
“I had a little bit of butterflies, but after a while and just getting in the game and getting that feeling back, it just all went away,” said Asamoah. “Playing Magruder basketball is just great.”
While the Colonels showcased their prolific offense and boasted four players with double-digit points, Magruder made sure to bring the defensive pressure against Damascus as well. A large part of the Magruder game plan included ways to neutralize Hornets senior forward Kynu Stone.
Stone finished with a team-high 21 points for Damascus, but the Colonels managed to shut him down and hold him to just two baskets in the second half.
The Hornets (3-1) trailed for the entirety of the game and found themselves in a double-digit deficit early on. Any time Damascus tried to close in and overtake Magruder, another 3-pointer would come sailing through the net, and the Colonels would start to pull away again.
Myrie provided assists and communicated instructions to his teammates on the court. Magruder generated turnovers and excelled on the offensive boards, but the Hornets kept the game within reach in the first half. Asamoah brought the Magruder bench to its feet with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer right before halftime.
The Colonels started to pull away in the second half after big plays by senior Michael Fernandez and juniors Rashid Abudu and Raffie Bardizbanian. Meanwhile, the Hornets didn’t generate a single basket in the opening minutes of the second half. Magruder double-teamed and sometimes even triple-teamed the Damascus point guards and often stole the ball away in the process.
Despite 12 second-half points by Damascus junior forward Ryan Linthicum, Magruder maintained a comfortable lead and continued to pour on the points in the fourth quarter. The Colonels shot more 3-point baskets in the fourth quarter than the Hornets scored in the entire game.
“We planned on chasing them off of the 3-point line because they’re obviously a great 3-point shooting team. It didn’t work. We were lazy, we didn’t really talk or play as a team, and that cost us in the end,” said Damascus senior guard Kevin Brown. “I think we were a little cocky, 3-0, we thought we would win without really thinking they could beat us.”
“We’ve got good depth, so we want to play with a high pace and get up and down the court. We wanted to try to wear them down a little bit, play nine or 10 guys and space the floor so we can have room to drive. We’ve got some very good shooters,” said Magruder Head Coach Dan Harwood. “Our goal right now with (Asamoah) coming back is just to try to develop some chemistry.”
Next up, the Colonels face Seneca Valley High School on Jan. 7. Meanwhile, Damascus will host Northwest High School on Jan. 4 and Poolesville High School on Jan. 7.