"It's All About The Game"
Wise elbows its way to 'chip
Ron Bailey, Publisher
Season dedicated to coach who passed.
March 16, 2014 - During the first quarter of Wise's dominating 70-43 Maryland State Class 4A Championship win, the Pumas couldn't be stopped. Time and again mid-range and post up shot were being canned. The first quarter ended as an 22-7 Wise advantage over Whittman.
Fueling their destruction was elbow work. Not the physical kind, though the Pumas were stout defensively and on the boards. They crushed the Vikings the easy way, taking what was given. In the half court, that would be shots from the elbow/extended area.
"They were fantastic. Everything they did worked" said Whittman's head coach Chris Lun. His team's "game plan was to force them to hit those shots because versus Springbrook" in state semifinal play "what we saw they didn't shoot particularly well".
Devin 'Love' Moore, doing work inside.
The initial Whittman defensive deployment was a 2-3 zone, which classically can be susceptible to elbow work, either shots or passes. The Pumas did just that, including sinking jump shots and finding open teammates, either on the perimeter/wings or around the cup in high-low looks.
Senior point guard Justice Sneed (seven points, five assists) said of their mid-range shooting "In practice, we put up a hundred of those shots each person. We were just knocking them down".
Senior forward Devin Moore scored repeatedly around the cup, along the way to 14 points. Junior big man Trevor Brown came off the bench and lit it up, in route to 15 points on 6-6 shooting, while also pulling down five boards. Senior Lavonte Sanders went 5-7 and finished with 13 points.
"We were worried about '5', (senior) Micah Till, we know what he could do" admitted Lun. "Other guys were stepping out and hitting shots. And once that happened it was just like a steam roll. They were very, very good".
Switching defenses did little for Wittman (21-7), as Wise, which shot 54.3% from the field despite only making 1-6 three pointers kept pouring in buckets. "I think we tried everything" said Lun. ". It was 2-3, we went to a 3-2 where we trap, a 3-2 where we don't. Man defense where we sag off, man defense where we try and force a little bit more pressure. To they're credit everything we tried they beat...they absolutely deserved to be the champions".
That execution extended to both sides of the floor; Whittman finished at 27.7% shooting, and 1-17 from three point land (5.9%). Stopping the long ball was key game plan point for Wise, leading Sneed to share "We had prepared for them so well...We knew they lived and died on threes. So if we stepped up and contested their shooters, they wouldn't have anything else".
The Vikings were led in scoring by center Josh Fried's 12 points; he also paced the game with seven boards. Alex Lesley, a senior guard, followed him with six points.
Wise, 24-2 on the year is in the unique position of being both basketball and football champions in the same academic year. It's head coach, Rod Garner was thankful, saying "This whole season has been a special season", while later noting "we were determined to come here and play well".
Till, a standout tight end headed to NC State, finished with nine points, three rebounds and four assists Saturday, indicated "hard work and dedication to the team" were lessons brought from the gridiron. "So coming into this season, I knew right off the bat coming straight from football into basketball, I couldn't take any days off".
The in-season death of assistant coach Riley Gore motivated Wise. Gore, a long time basketball figure in PG County actually coached a 14 year old Garner. "To have him on our staff was an honor. He meant so much to a lot of people" said Garner. "When we found out during the season (he was gravely ill), it really hurt our kids. We watched him go through the things physically that he went through. We made it our business to honor this season for Coach Gore".
That they did, capping it off in a major way.
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