BETHESDA – Junior Will Margarites’ go-ahead layup late in the fourth quarter was enough to help lead the Wootton High School boys basketball team to a 64-63 win over Walter Johnson High School on Jan. 13.
Margarite’s game-winner gave the Patriots their second win in three games. Defeating Walter Johnson was extra motivating as both teams played a tight affair, thrilling fans in attendance. The junior hit his clutch layup with under 15 seconds to go and with Wootton down by one point. Following the victory, Margarites expressed joy about the win and hopes it will push them forward for more success in the season.
“It felt good,” said Margarites. “I got a good pass from Jack Moskowitz, and it was just cool. I’m just happy for all of us.”
Early in the first quarter, Wootton burst through with a 9-2 lead that increased to 15-8 thanks in large part to six different Patriots scoring a single bucket. However, in the second half, the Wildcats began to catch up, as they stayed aggressive on defense while nailing their shots behind the arc. Senior Kai Holloway made three 3-pointers, while fellow senior Bealu Bezaben sunk in two more as Walter Johnson scored 22 points in the second quarter alone.
Wootton held on to a seven-point lead heading into halftime, as Margarites was already the team’s leading scorer with 10 first-half points.
“It was stressful,” said Margarites. “It was fun to play out there. I’m just proud of all our guys pulling out the win.”
The intense tempo from both teams continued onto the third quarter, as Bezaben and his junior teammate Phil Stubin went off for Walter Johnson, bringing them closer to tying the game. By the end of the contest, Stubin led the way with 19 points, while Bezaben put up 15 points.
“They’ve been our two top scorers the whole year,” said Wildcats Head Coach Kevin Parrish. “They just continue to do what they always do. They bring it every game, they played well tonight, and they gave us a chance to win.”
However, Wootton still got some strong offensive production, especially from Margarites, who added eight more points in the third quarter. The Patriots led 54-46, heading into the fourth.
The final quarter was when the Wildcats truly showed their resilience by nailing a few clutch 3-pointers, reducing their deficit to three points.
The final 90 seconds brought on a wild sequence after Walter Johnson missed multiple shots until junior Charlie Newman nailed a 3-pointer to put his team ahead 63-62 with 1:08 to go.
“We hadn’t had the lead the whole game,” said Parrish. “So when he gave us that, there was still way too much time.”
Walter Johnson believed it had gotten a clutch defensive rebound after a Wootton missed attempt, but game offciaisls made a jump ball call, leading to the Patriots retaining possession. This led to Margarites’ layup that gave the lead back to the Patriots. Wildcats quickly racing down the court as Stubin attempted a potential game-winning shot. However, the ball rattling in and out of the hoop as time expired, giving the visitors the win.
“It definitely hurts,” said Stubin. “We had them at the end. Couple bad calls. Couple unlucky bounces. If things went another way, we would be celebrating, but unfortunately, that’s not the situation.”
According to Wootton Head Coach Erick Graves, the game could have gone either way and gave credit to Walter Johnson, who was missing several players for illnesses and injuries. However, earning a close road win was essential for their season going forward. Margarites scored a team-high 23 points, earning praise from Graves after the game as well.
“That’s always a good feeling,” Graves said. “You’ve got a lot of trust in him. He’s been a leader for us coming in. He’s got the ability to make his teammates better at the same time to go ahead and make the big shot when needed.”
Despite the loss, Parrish was proud of how his depleted team played through the adversity of missing players. They will look to bounce back when they face Bethesda-Chevy Chase on Jan. 17.
“Obviously disappointed that we lost,” said Parrish. “We were a little shorthanded tonight. We’ve got three guys with the flu. I think it showed on rebounding and defense.”