The score was tied at 79 with just 22.2 seconds left in the Friday night Class 6 Boys Basketball State Quarterfinals matchup between Lake Braddock and Centreville.
Centreville had possession of the ball, and senior forward Mekhai Washington had been unstoppable all night – it only seemed logical to put the ball in his hands when the game mattered most. Washington was poised to attack the rim as he had done all evening en route to his 37 points, but the dynamic forward chose to send an outlet pass to senior guard John Hunter, who was left open behind the three-point line.
Hunter received the pass and took the shot without hesitation. The shot was good from the moment it left his hands, and the packed gym at Westfield became deafening as Hunter’s shot sailed through the net and clinched an 82-79 victory for the Wildcats. (Below footage credit Jake Rohm, WDVM Sports)
— Jake Rohm (@jakerohm) March 7, 2020
“Shooters shoot, right?” Hunter said as he laughed.
Hunter had failed to convert a three-pointer in the first half, but he would go on to sink four treys, including the game-winner, after his teammates encouraged him to keep playing his game.
“My teammates told me: keep shooting, you’ll find it. So I told them I got them,” Hunter said.
The Wildcats (21-6) had trailed the Bruins all game up until the final minute of the third quarter. Lake Braddock stuck to its mantra of playing fast thanks to the young core of freshman forward Jamie Kaiser (15 points), sophomore guard Trey Seigle (17), sophomore center David Solomon (16), and sophomore guard Quincy Via (13).
The Bruins’ (21-7) quick-paced basketball paired with an occasional press, a half-court trap, and constant subs had overwhelmed opponents, as they had scored 90+ points in 10 games this season. Both teams front courts reaped the benefits of the fast pace, as a majority of points in the game came off of fast break buckets. However, the Wildcats were able to shift the momentum late in the third quarter by sticking to their own pace.
“Lake Braddock is a great team,” Hunter said. “Their pace of play really got us, they played really fast. Once we settled in we started playing our game.”
Coach Harris explained that coming into the game he knew the Bruins would be playing their explosive style of play, but he told his team to stick to their game plan.
“We wanted to make sure we got the best shot available to us,” Centreville Head Coach Kevin Harris said. “I think we did a good job attacking through the press. I told my guys to continue attacking the rim. We need to get stops on defense. Make your free throws and lay ups.”
The Wildcats went on an 11-0 run to close the third quarter that put them ahead 58-56 heading into the fourth quarter. Lake Braddock refused to die as they tied the game twice in the final two minutes, including a corner three from senior forward Jimmy Anderson that evened the score at 79. But in the end, Centreville refused to let their season end.
“We went in at halftime and we all looked at ourselves in the mirror and said we’re not done hooping yet,” Washington said. “So we all came together and pushed through. I’m a senior, this is my last season. All you can ever ask for is a state ring.”
With the region 6D title already under their belt, the Wildcats are eager for an opportunity at the first boys basketball state title in school history. Centreville will return to Westfield on Tuesday, March 10 to go up against Western Branch in the Class 6 Boys State semifinals.
“Anytime you get a win in March it’s great, especially against a team like Lake Braddock,” Coach Harris said. “Now we get back in the gym and we prepare for Western Branch. At this stage in the season everyone is playing good ball. Everyone is a good team, and well coached. We have to go in with our best foot forward.”