LARGO – Last season, the Fairmont Heights boys' basketball squad won in a nailbiter in the 2017 Class 1A Maryland Regional Championship match with a four-point victory over Havre de Grace High School. This year, the Hornets were looking for back-to-back regional championships against a new challenger in Friendly High School.
On Jan. 9, Fairmont Heights defeated the Patriots 60-41 in a home conference game. Nearly two months later on March 3 at Largo High School, Friendly looked to avenge that loss with the regional championship on the line and a trip to the state semifinal.
With the stage set, both squads brought their a-games to the hardwood. Led by senior Darren Lucas-White, Fairmont Heights took down Friendly 76-55 to become regional champs for the second consecutive year.
Lucas-White, who wears number zero, plays similar to Russell Westbrook with his court vision and aggressiveness when he drives to the basket, which was a mystery that Friendly could not figure out defensively. White finished with a team-high of 24 points and appeared nearly unstoppable.
“I got a little bit of Westbrook in me, but I just want to be the best me,” White said with a smile on his face. “I don’t really look at anybody else's game.
I look at my team first before I try to score. So doing that opens up passing lanes. The key factor in our win today was defense and scoring on transition. We still need to work on our defense constantly for upcoming games and critique our plays a little bit.”
Fairmont Heights came out on fire and showed why they are the defending Maryland 1A State Champions with a 14-5 run to start the game. Their offense catapulted the Hornets to a 14-point lead in the first quarter, and they never looked back.
The first half was all Fairmont Heights as they dominated on both sides of the ball. A key part of their success was the play of six-foot-six senior center Yearlarndo Reed, II. Reed not only made his presence felt with his defense and rebounding but also with the fact that he could shoot from the perimeter. Reed knocked down two three-pointers and ended the game with 12 points.
“My coaches always noticed I could shoot when I was young, so they told me to keep shooting,” Reed said. “I was playing more on the wing, but when I got bigger in size and height, I had to get the big man part of my game down.
“It gives me an advantage over other big men because if they want to do something down low with me, they can’t because of my size. Then when I get on the outside, they are not going to respect me because they think I’m big and tall and can’t shoot. That’s where they mess up at.”
In the second half, Fairmont Heights controlled the pace of the game and increased their lead to as much as 30 points. Friendly could not keep up with the defending champs. Although they made spurts of runs to play catchup, the Patriots never got within single digits the rest of the game. Senior guard Darious Bowman led the team with a game-high of 26 points.
“I thought gave a pretty complete effort today,” Fairmont Head Coach Chuck Henry said. “I think there were some opportunities in there where we could have stopped some straight-line drives. Overall, I’m proud of what the guys gave us today. I thought it was a good complete 32-minute effort led by our leaders. I love it when we have our leaders step up and push the supporting cast.”
Fairmont will now take on Patterson Mill High School in the Class 1A State Semifinal game with hopes of returning to the state championship game to defend their title.
Although they have the experience, Henry knows they still have work to do and that they can not get comfortable.
“My message to them has been the same from last season,” Henry said. “However, this year’s version hasn’t accomplished anything yet. Up to this point, we’ve obviously had a couple of accomplishments, but that’s just experience to build on. That’s not experience to stop on.”