Thane Woods has been in Springbrook High School’s gymnasium plenty of times. He’s shot countless jumpers, 3-pointers, layups and free throws, but none quite like the pair of free throws he had with 6.8 seconds left in overtime on Wednesday against defending 4A state champion Col. Zadok Magruder.
With his Blue Devils up two, Woods buried the first.
“I wanted to jump for joy,” said Woods, currently the team’s 12th leading scorer averaging just one point per game. “I had to keep my composure. I had all my team behind me.”
His composure turned out to be flawless. He also made the second, putting Springbrook up four and all but assuring the No. 4 Blue Devils a 59-55 win over the No. 2 Colonels.
“I just told him if he makes these two, we’re going to win the ball game,” Springbrook coach Thomas Crowell said. “We got a four point lead with six seconds, I just told my guys not to foul. Stay in front, don’t foul, rebound and just hold the ball. Don’t even try to throw it.”
When taking a step back and reviewing the players who had ample opportunities to deliver a backbreaker, it’s odd that the fate of the game ended up in Woods’ hands.
With 5 minutes, 51 seconds left in the game, Magruder was up nine and Nick Griffin, who was held scoreless in the first half but finished with a game-high 17 points, was beginning to heat up. And even when Springbrook scrapped and clawed all the way back to tie it up with 4.5 seconds left in regulation, it was still Magruder with the opportunity to close it.
J.J. Epps, Magruder’s 5-foot-6 point guard who is averaging nearly 15 points per game, broke the Springbrook press easily and pulled up from the foul line where he is typically automatic. But he slipped and the shot went wide right.
Then in overtime, Griffin, a George Washington University recruit who recently scored his 1,000 career point, could have tied it up with two free throws with 58 seconds left, but he missed the second attempt. Epps had another chance with 17 seconds remaining, but he slipped again — a common occurrence on the night that was the cause of a number of turnovers — and got tied up and Springbrook took over.
“They played unbelievable defense the whole game,” Magruder coach Dan Harwood said afterwards. “They’re bigger than us, you know, and they kind of wore us down a bit. I thought they played great defense and they forced us into things that we don’t normally do so I’m going to give them all the credit.”
So it came down to Woods, an unlikely candidate as any considering that Springbrook has Andrew Robinson, a 6-foot-5 guard averaging more than 20 points per game. And while Woods may have finished with just five points — all on free throws coming in the fourth quarter and overtime — it was the biggest five-point night he has ever had.
“That was my first big moment,” he said. “But I hope I have a lot more.”
It was not quite the start Magruder wanted in beginning a three-game stretch against teams combining for a 13-2 record. Two days after Christmas, the Colonels will see Prince George’s County’s Gwynn Park (4-1) and follow that up a day later with Thomas Stone (4-1).
“These kids, they handle this well,” Harwood said. “They’ll bounce back next week.”
Despite the win, Crowell understands that his team is far from perfect, particularly on the offensive end. The Blue Devils shot just 22-of-55 from the field, including 17-of-49 in regulation.
“This is a defensive victory for us, believe it or not,” Crowell said. “They got a great basketball team over there at Magruder. We’re not going around thinking that we’re better than Magruder because Magruder is as good as they get.
“We’re a long way from perfect but, you know, that’s why you practice.”
Springbrook 59, Magruder 55
Springbrook (5-0) 4 14 12 16 13—59
Magruder (5-1) 8 10 20 8 9—55
Springbrook—Andrew Robinson 14; Tomazye Anderson 11; Isaiah Eisendorf 9; Nick Brewer 8; Deion Haynes 8; Thane Woods 5; Jarod Mustaf 4.
Magruder—Nick Griffin 17; J.J. Epps 12; Brian Coleman 12; Justin Witmer 8; Ryan Rucker 3; Tyrii Jackson 3.