Montgomery County basketball gets overlooked oftentimes, but I think we made a huge statement with our performances this month in the MPSSAA Boys Basketball State Tournament at Xfinity Center.
Quince Orchard knocked off previously unbeaten Wise, 55-52, in what will likely go down as the biggest win in program history.
The classic David vs. Goliath story is not uncommon when it comes to Montgomery County public school teams. In fact, it’s usually the norm whenever Montgomery County plays a team from Prince George’s County, which was the case this year.
On paper, Wise appeared to have a team that was capable of beating Quince Orchard with ease. The Pumas boasted a pair of prime-time Division I prospects in 6-foot, 3-inch guard Mike Speight and 6-foot, 6-inch forward Darron Barnes.
Couple that with the fact that Wise was riding a 21-game winning streak including a No. 1 local ranking and a No. 17 national ranking by Maxpreps, and you can see why the Pumas entered the game as heavy favorites against their counterparts from Mo County.
Frankly, Montgomery County has a history of success against seemingly more talented Prince George’s County teams whenever the rival schools get together at the Maryland state tournament.
I remember back in 2001 when Magruder beat an Eleanor Roosevelt team that featured future NBA players Delonte West and Eddie Basden.
Back then, Dan Harwood’s Colonels boasted Isaiah Swann and Pele Paelay, who are now both playing professional basketball overseas.
I also remember the Whitman squad that beat Eleanor Roosevelt in 2006 to capture the state championship.
That Whitman team featured senior guard Michael Gruner, who would go on to play college basketball in the Patriot League before embarking on a professional career overseas. Gruner, who played at Lafayette, signed with a team in Poland after his college graduation.
Quince Orchard’s win over Wise was epic. One of the best high school games I’ve ever seen, and believe you me I’ve seen my fair share of high school basketball games over the years.
“Take your hats off to Quince Orchard,” Wise head coach Rob Garner said during the postgame news conference. “We played some really good teams this year. We hadn’t really faced a team like Quince Orchard.”
Matt Kelly, Quince Orchard’s dynamic 5-foot, 10-inch senior guard, played out of his mind and QO’s 6-foot, 4-inch senior forward Johnny Fierstein was equally impressive.
Quince Orchard’s supporting cast including juniors Daniel Dorsey and Jack Faraone also rose to the occasion.
“They stuck with their game plan and did a good job,” said Garner.
Kelly – who told me he plans to play at Assumption College next season – certainly saved his best for last. He finished with a game-high 22 points in the 59-56 overtime loss to Perry Hall.
Kelly was draining three-pointers from the parking lot; more than half his points were routine treys. “He’s unbelievable,” said Perry Hall head coach George Panageotou.
Yes, the Cougars enjoyed a magical ride that we can all take pride in.
“They gave us everything they had,” said Panageotou. “I don’t know how we won.”