Trailing by two entering the final minutes, Howard sophomore Jakir Stewart stepped up to the foul line and sank three out of four free throws in the final seconds to secure a thrilling 54-51 victory over Hodgson in a gritty Blue Hen Flight B boys basketball game on Tuesday night.
“I wrote on the board, ‘You are going to have to make foul shots to win this game!’ ” Howard coach Chris DiMascio said. “Hands down, the game was going to come down to who was going to make more foul shots late in the game, and luckily, we had the chance.”
Howard, ranked No. 2 by The News Journal, fell behind by eight points early and failed to score a bucket until Tyaire Ponzo-Meek pulled up for a jumper at the 2:41 mark in the first.
The Wildcats (4-0) warmed up when senior Larry Woody opened up the second quarter with his second 3-pointer of the game. Woody’s 11 first-half points, including three 3s, helped lift the Wildcats to a 25-21 lead going into halftime.
“Last year, we kind of lost focus towards the end of the game with turnovers; this year, we had to slow down the game and play at our pace,” said Woody, who had a game-high 20 points.
Howard held onto the lead until Hodgson’s Raymond Jones made two free throws and followed with a buzzer-beating jumper to give the Silver Eagles a 40-39 lead going into the final quarter.
With 10.5 seconds on the clock, Hodgson’s Nicholas Richards had a chance to tie the game up at 54, but the shot would not fall. Bilal Nichols led No. 7 Hodgson (2-1) with 17 points.
“We fell short because we didn’t execute our half-court offense, and we were undisciplined on defense,” Silver Eagles coach Ed Sobocinski said.
“We were immature, and I don’t think they were ready mentally for a game of this magnitude.”