Having dawdled through its past two games–both losses–scoring just 30 and 36 points, respectively, the Flint Hill boys basketball team found the pace and scoreboard more to its liking Thursday at home, posting a thrilling 88-82 win over John Paul the Great in non-league action.
The Huskies (12-8) got a splendid second-half effort from sophomore guard Saxby Sunderland (17 points) to go with a steady 27-point contribution from senior center Noel Brown and 17 more from senior forward Dowar Jioklaw.
Try as he might, Wolves’ senior guard D.J. Slaughter kept his team in the game with a career-high 39 points, including seven three-pointers. Slaughter was magnificent, connecting from the outside and also challenging the Flint Hill’s inside defenders on nifty drives to the basket, especially when the 6-foot-10 Brown was on the bench for spells with foul trouble. Slaughter had 25 points in the first half alone, helping his team cut an eight-point early deficit to pull to within 43-41 at the half.
Those 43 points by the hosts easily surpassed the Huskies’ sluggish output in those two losses to the more methodical Carroll and Sidwell Friends.
“We really lacked intensity the previous two games,” Sunderland said. “We had no energy. We played to [Sidwell and Carroll’s] slower pace. Tonight, we played more of our game: up and down. The energy for us was there from the start. I’m a big part of our offense. I really got it going in the second half. The team feeds off of my energy.”
Flint Hill guard Saxby Sunderland talks about the energy he brought his team (and 17 points) in the second half of tonight’s thrilling 89-82 win over John Paul the Great, snapping FH’s 3-game losing streak. @novahoopsCom pic.twitter.com/NHpp92ros8 — Paul Bergeron (@PaulBergeron3) January 24, 2020
Flint Hill guard Saxby Sunderland talks about the energy he brought his team (and 17 points) in the second half of tonight’s thrilling 89-82 win over John Paul the Great, snapping FH’s 3-game losing streak. @novahoopsCom pic.twitter.com/NHpp92ros8
— Paul Bergeron (@PaulBergeron3) January 24, 2020
The game featured four ties and six lead changes after intermission. Second-half efforts from Wolves’ senior guard Coretez Lewis (11 points) and junior forward Cephas Wilson-Bahun (eight points) complemented Slaughter.
Dumfries’ John Paul the Great (8-9) took its biggest lead of the game at 76-73 with five minutes to play on an inside hoop by Slaughter (seven three-pointers) as part of an 11-2 spurt before Flint Hill rallied to regain a narrow lead.
The Wolves again went ahead, 82-81, with 1:04 to play after Lewis hit back-to-back 12-foot jumpers. A three-pointer by Brown seconds later put his team back in front. But coming out of a timeout, John Paul the Great mishandled its inbounds pass and later had calls go against it on batted rebounds under the Flint Hill basket. Late made free throws expanded the lead.
Sunderland’s big second half included two freakish made three-pointers. Stuck with the ball in the corner, he leaned in to shoot, then adjusted to make a high pass, but the ball took an odd carom off the far rim, bounced four feet into the air, and fell in. As the third quarter wound down, he gathered in the ball at midcourt with one second left, then forced up a jump-hook against a defender in an effort to draw a foul. No foul was called but his shot swished for a 71-65 edge.
Sunderland and his teammates benefited from the attention paid Brown underneath most of the game. The George Washington University commit used polished inside moves to score often. He also willfully distributed the ball to teammates for open looks or passed to them as they cut to the basket.
“Most teams we play don’t have a defender who can stop [Brown],” Sunderland said. “He’ll score, but we love playing with him because he’s great at distributing the ball as part of our offense.”
Equally unstoppable was Slaughter. Sunderland said his team’s plan was to face-guard him all night. Justice Ellison (six points) and Daniel Ferguson (four points) and others tried valiantly to for most of the night. “It didn’t work,” Sunderland said. Ellison eventually fouled out with 1:56 to go.