The Wicomico high boys’ basketball team held a one-point lead over Kent County with 10 seconds to play in the Bayside Conference Championship game on Wednesday night.
After senior guard Xavier Branyon-Sims hit a pair of free throws to give them a three-point lead, some Indians players started celebrating, but Torrey Brittingham was not one of them.
The scene was all-too familiar for the junior Indians’ guard and he knew he had to get back on defense right away.
It was a year ago in the same game and on the same floor in the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center where Brittingham — then a sophomore playing for Stephen Decatur — saw his dreams of winning a title slip away as Easton hit a three at the buzzer to force overtime and dismantled Brittingham’s Seahawks’ team from there.
“I was having terrible flashbacks,” Brittingham said. “I let my teammates know that I was in the same situation last year. These guys played it smarter this time around, and they shot an air-ball and we got the win.”
Branyon-Sims was there to catch the final rebound as the buzzer sounded and the Indians beat the Trojans, 70-67 after trailing by as many as 12 points for their ninth Bayside Championship in school history.
Those free throws from Branyon-Sims capped off a long comeback for the Indians who trailed from the start of the game until the end of the third quarter before engaging in a heated fourth-quarter battle with the Trojans.
The two sides met earlier this season in Kent County and Wi-Hi easily won, 97-69. In that game, Brittingham outhustled and out-played rival point guard Marquan Greene and Wi-Hi slowed down the “run-n-gun” Trojans to take the win. But this time, things were different.
“They got a lot quicker,” Indians’ head coach Butch Waller said. “We over-dribbled and it took us until the fourth quarter to finally settle down.”
Wicomico High guard Nelson Brown (20) amps up his teammates before tipping off against Kent County in the Bayside Championship on Wednesday evening at the Wicomico County Youth and Civic Center.
Greene kickstarted the Trojans when he swished a jumper right in Brittingham’s grill in the first quarter. That was two of eight straight points from the sophomore guard as the Trojans went on a 12-2 run to take an eight-point lead over Wi-Hi early.
“Greene broke us down and got to the basket,” Waller said.
The barrage of points from Greene also came with some taunting directed towards Brittingham.
“It’s a big experience for me, just like, going against another point guard that’s on my level,” Greene said. “So it’s fun. I like competition.”
The competition between the two heated up on both ends of the floor and a war of words ensued as between the point guards. In the first half, it appeared to work in Greene’s advantage as he tricked the Indians into mental mistakes, over-dribbling and turnovers, resulting in 17 points for him off the bench.
“This time he might have gotten the better of me,” Brittingham said. “He was playing really good in the first half and I wasn’t, but we came out with the win. I don’t know what we were doing. We weren’t getting back and we weren’t stopping the fast break.”
The Trojans’ method to success early on was getting out and running with Greene and other quick guards like Manny Camper after Wi-Hi would turn the ball over or miss a shot. The Indians kept driving inside early, but Trojans’ senior big man Kyree Sorrell destroyed Indians that came his way as he protected the rim. Sorrell finished with 12 rebounds, three blocks and eight points.
The Indians started chipping away at Sorrell though when Trevell Jones — the Indians senior forward — helped draw them within three points of the lead by relentlessly attacking the robust big man. Jones finished with 13 points, 11 rebounds a block and a pair of steals and also drew a few charges to tilt the game back into the Indians’ favor.
“I gave it my all out there and laid it all on the floor,” Jones said. “We don’t believe at fear at Wi-Hi. It’s just a state of mind. Fear is nothing and we just go out there and play every game.”
When Sorrell became ineffective, the Trojans slowed things down instead of sticking to their guns and ran their offense through the four corners of the half court. That resulted in turnovers which turned into easy points for Wi-Hi that gave them the lead at the end of the third quarter.
“Teams can’t score on us by running a play. They’ll score by fast breaks,” Jones said.
From there, Waller felt the game was won.
“At the 2:08 mark I turned to (assistant coach) Doug King and said, ‘It’s our game.’ Kent wasn’t even doubling the ball,” Waller said. “It was sort of like (Kent County) gave up and that’s one thing that this team will not do.
“They’ll play bad — and they certainly exhibited that tonight at times — but they will never give up. It was a gut win.”
Despite his team not putting together their most efficient effort, Waller was proud of the way his guys played and hopes that they look back on this memorable win, years later.
“This has been a fun team to coach. It wasn’t so much fun tonight, but the result was terrific and I’m really happy for them,” he said. “Now they have something that they can say for the rest of their life that, in the 2014-15 season they were the best team from the Bay Bridge to the Virginia line and out of 18 schools and that’s nice. That’s the title.”