ROCKVILLE – Two Montgomery County high school basketball powerhouses faced off on Jan. 10 as Richard Montgomery hosted Gaithersburg.
The game lived up to the hype as Trojans junior Jao Ituka tied the game with a 3-pointer late, but Rockets junior Jabrill Robinson hit one of two free throws to lead Richard Montgomery to a thrilling 74-73 victory.
“I knew I had to hit it,” Robinson said. “Game was close. In the back of my mind, I knew I had to make it, so I tried to keep my composure and knock it down.”
Richard Montgomery (9-2) took control early, taking a 12-7 lead in the first quarter thanks to its defense stepping up and containing Ituka to only two points. However, the Trojans got their groove going in the second quarter, thanks to five points from the junior, followed by eight points by senior Jahdel Darego.
While Gaithersburg (6-3) took over the lead, Richard Montgomery’s offense was on fire from behind the arc. Together with the increased pressure by their defense, the Rockets regained the lead and entered halftime with a 34-28 advantage.
“They are physical, strong,” said Robinson. “We had to try to muscle our way to the rim, box out. We pulled through Ituka at the end.”
Gaithersburg junior Mandela Tarke emerged in the second half and, together along with Ituka, kept the Trojans in the contest. With his imposing presence on offense, Tarke finished with a team-high 26 points.
Late in the fourth quarter and down by three points, Gaithersburg tied the game at 73-all when Ituka nailed a 3-pointer. On the ensuing possession, Robinson drove to the hoop going for the go-ahead layup but got fouled with four seconds remaining.
Robinson hit the second of two free throws to put the Rockets ahead by one point. Ituka, who scored 17 points, attempted a last-second, game-winning shot before time expired. However, the ball bounced off the rim, causing a celebration on the Richard Montgomery bench.
Robinson and his fellow junior teammate Kordell Lewis finished the night with 13 and 15 points, respectively.