What. A. Game.
The Retrievers of University of Maryland, Baltimore County pulled off the unthinkable on Friday night by dismantling the overall No. 1 seed, Virginia, in the NCAA Tournament.
The win marked the first time in NCAA Tournament history that a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed.
The Retrievers were led by Montgomery County product Jairus Lyles who finished with a game-high 28 points and added four rebounds and three assists in UMBC’s 74-54 victory.
“I think we had the confidence coming into the game,” said Lyles. “I don’t think there was a point in the game that we thought we couldn’t play with them.”
Although Lyles wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school despite playing for national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic, the Silver Spring native grew up playing basketball in the Gwendolyn E. Coffield Community Recreation Center located in the city’s Rosemary Hills neighborhood.
“He had a different type of hunger,” recalled Frank Peterson IV, a former basketball standout from the neighborhood. “He never shied away from anything.”
Peterson, nicknamed “Petey,” spent portions of his high school career at Gonzaga and St. John’s but graduated from Bethesda-Chevy Chase in 2001. He played college basketball at the University of the District of Columbia and now serves as the regional director for AEL Sports.
Over the years, Peterson said, the Coffield Community Center has also been home to a number of elite student-athletes who played high school basketball in the area including Jeff Allen, Nigel Munson, Sean Tracy, Billy Edelin, Bryant Crawford, Austin Cooley, Kory Cooley, Zaid Hearst and Jerome Seagears among others.
The community center sits in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School district but top players often decide to attend private schools instead.
Once a high school basketball standout at Bullis, Tracy played collegiately at Drake and now heads the boys basketball program at Bethesda-Chevy Chase. Brandon Howell, a B-CC assistant coach, has also helped mentor various student-athletes in the Rosemary Hills neighborhood.
The student-athletes from this proud Silver Spring community have helped build a storied sports legacy for the younger generation to emulate.
“We’ve got a lot of history and tradition and pride in where we come from,” said Peterson.
In Friday’s upset, Lyles moved into second place on UMBC’s career scoring list and also set the UMBC single-season record for both points scored and free throws made.
Crawford, a former high school standout at Gonzaga, just finished his junior campaign at Wake Forest where he earned honorable mention All-ACC honors.
Meanwhile, Kory Cooley, who spent a portion of his high school career at Montrose Christian, earned tournament MVP honors in leading Virginia Union University to the CIAA Tournament championship this year.
Lyles, Crawford, Cooley and others have tasted sweet success on the hardwood but it comes as no surprise to some observers.
“Those guys grew up playing against each other,” said Peterson. “They’ve been battling each other for years.”