COLLEGE PARK - It had been 36 years since the Fairmont Heights boys' basketball team had won a state championship.
That drought is now something of the past.
Fairmont Heights survived a rough first quarter and, along with Edmondson-Westside's knack for rushing on offense and taking bad shots, managed to win the MPSSAA 1A boys' state title on Saturday by a score of 65-52. It is the school's first state title since 1981.
"I thought our guys were really resilient today," said Fairmont Heights Head Coach Chuck Henry. "I am very proud of my guys and ultimately I am humbled by what we got accomplished today."
The game did not start the way the Hornets had hoped, as they quickly found themselves down 8-1 three minutes into the game. Edmondson's run-and-gun style of play made for some acrobatic layups. However, its willingness to shoot the first shot that presented itself, or force a drive through two defenders for an awkward layup, allowed Fairmont to get back into the game.
Although the Hornets shot 4-for-20 in the first quarter, guard Mandell Quigley delivered a spark off the bench with five points and had Fairmont down one (12-11) at the end of one.
"I bet you thought I was crazy for not taking a timeout, too," Henry said. "I know my assistants did. Honestly that is kind of how we played all year. We fought hard. We get down some games. Some games you are up.
"We try to remain calm. What I exhibit is what they are going to exhibit in the court. So if I panic these guys are going to panic. Anyone who knows me knows I don't panic much. I am emotional, but I don't panic."
Play was back and forth for the next two quarters with Fairmont holding the biggest lead at 27-21 midway through the second. Edmondson responded though and closed out the half with a 9-1 run to take a two-point lead into the break.
Yearlando Reed, II was another Fairmont player who provided a punch off the bench. Reed came in midway through the first with Quigley and knocked down a three to get things going. He then drained some key triples in the second half to help keep the Red Storm at bay. In the end Reed finished with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
"In warmups I couldn't make anything," Reed said. "But when I got in the game my teammates always tell me to shoot, so I shot and knocked it down. Then I was like, 'oh yeah, there it is.'
"It is not really about who starts, but who finishes. I don't worry about starting. When I get in the game I just worry about helping my team get the 'W.'"
Fairmont held a one-point lead heading into the final frame, but went on to win easily thanks to some great shooting. The Hornets were 6-of-7 from the field in the final eight minutes, and went 8-of-12 from the free throw line down the stretch to close things out. Up five with 1:30 to go, Anthony Craven made 3-of-4 attempts on ensuing possessions to give his team a comfortable eight-point lead. It was all over after that.
Darren Lucas-White was second on the team in scoring with 15 points and eight rebounds. Kimani Benjamin, who went off for 27 points in the semifinal against Kent County, finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Seven Prince George's County teams, including both boys and girls, made it to the state semifinals. However, only one - Fairmont Heights - will be coming home with a state championship.
"The little guys brought it home," Henry said. "We are very close with all the programs in PG County, even on the girls side. We are a coaching fraternity. Most of the coaches who know me really fought for me to get this job, and so for us to be here in year two was already an amazing accomplishment. And to win it after 36 years is a huge accomplishment - not just for the Seat Pleasant/Capitol Heights community - but for PG County."