Friday, April 18, 2014

Whitman Boys Advance to 4-A H.S. Basketball Finals

by John Vittas

Originally Published for Terp Report (March 14, 2014)

Riley Shaver jogged to the bench with a blank look of disbelief, as his teammates congratulated him on his series of plays that springboarded his Walt Whitman team into the 4-A Maryland state finals Thursday, March 14.

The junior banked home a three to end the third quarter, breaking a 36-36 tie at a crowded Comcast Center in College Park. The Vikings would not relinquish that lead.

“I love the fact that he banked the three. It made it even better,” Whitman head coach Chris Lun said. “He told me he called it.”

“It was huge,” Shaver said. “That extra three points helped the momentum and just really boosted our defense and pushed us through the fourth quarter.”

Shaver, who came off the bench to score eight points, grabbed the first rebound of the fourth quarter, leading to an acrobatic layup by senior Adam Joel. Moments later, Shaver knocked down a pair of free throws and pulled down another board, igniting the decisive 9-0 Whitman run.

Sophomore Kyle Depollar led the way offensively for the Vikings with 20 points, and senior Max Steinhorn added 13.  The duo combined to go 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, putting away Annapolis down the stretch. Whitman shot 80 percent from the line on the night.

“I think it’s just a mindset,” Steinhorn said. “You have to buckle down and clear your head and know that these free throws are going to help us win the game.”

The Vikings limited Annapolis senior Juan Brown to 7-for-20 from the field. Brown, who averages 24 points-per-game, did not make a shot in the final period. Brown’s frustration began to boil over in the fourth, as he attempted multiple desperation fadeaways and became verbally animated in the huddle during timeouts.

“Juan Brown is a fantastic player,” Lun said. “Our guys dug in on defense and they did a good job pressuring the ball and making sure that if Juan Brown is going to take those shots, he’s going to be contested.”

Brown composed himself admirably at the post-game press conference.

“Of course we would like to play Saturday night and hopefully come home with a state championship, and for the seniors, go out in the highest way possible. But it didn’t happen. It’s a great privilege to come out here and play at Comcast and be in front of you guys. It’s a lot of big things that we’re not used to as high school students.”

Brown and Annapolis took an early seven-point lead, outscoring Whitman 16-10 in the first quarter. They also took a one-point advantage into the locker room.

“It think it was 12-5 when we called the first timeout,” Lun recalled. “I said, ‘Listen guys we’re fine. We just have to run our stuff and be patient, and things will work out. We’re lucky it did.’”

Whitman (21-6) will return to the Comcast Center at 8 p.m. on Saturday to play the winner of Springbrook and Henry A. Wise. Whitman and Springbrook are both located in Montgomery County.

“We’re not going to root for one team or the other,” Lun said. “But it would be really cool to see two Montgomery County teams in the 4-A State Championship.”

The Vikings are looking for their first State title since 2006. Thursday night’s win clinches just their second trip to the finals since 1986.

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