The gym was silent as Poolesville High School’s boys and girls varsity basketball players walked onto the floor in a single file line minutes before tip-off on Thursday. The athletes circled around center court and their hands joined together. The back of their shirts had the phrase “Spread your Falcon wings and fly” printed on it and on their left sleeves the letters MSP, the initials of Michael Poe, were inscribed.
Poe, 23, was pronounced dead sixteen hours earlier. He was a former Poolesville basketball player and the older brother of senior guard Mitchell Poe. The team received the heartbreaking news late Wednesday night.
“I can tell you what my quote is going to be, win or lose: ‘I’m proud of them,’” Falcons boys coach Kenny Kramek said before their game against Wheaton.
Playing without Mitchell, the Falcons (8-1) not only showed up. They played a nearly flawless brand of team basketball and defeated the Knights (5-4) 55-45 to win their seventh consecutive game.
“We just came out and we played for him,” senior guard Collin Turner said. “It was hard, and it was a hard loss that the community suffered. We just wanted to go out and get this win for him.”
In the final seconds of the first quarter with Poolesville trailing 15-12, junior guard Andy Baker nailed a 3-pointer as time expired. His shot triggered a 24-2 run that gave the Falcons a 36-17 lead heading into halftime.
“It really set the tempo for the second quarter,” Kramek said. “And you could just see it in the kids’ eyes how much they wanted to play well for Mitchell tonight and for the Poe family, and that second quarter really exemplified what this team was about.”
Turner led the Falcons’ second quarter barrage, scoring eight points and hitting two 3-pointers. Junior Anthony Papagjika hit a step-back three in the closing minutes of the quarter and senior Kirby Carmack’s buzzer beater capped off the run.
“They definitely were playing inspired,” Wheaton coach Sharief Hashim said. “You just got to be ready to play for any situation. We fell asleep in the second quarter and we never really got it back defensively.”
The Knights picked up their play in the second half. Their leading scorer, Tyron White, scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 21.
“He’s a very, very good player, but the kids did a good job of managing [him] and we were able to build a little bit of a lead and then prevent them from making that real big run,” Kramek said.
The Falcons had a balanced attack, with each of their starters tallying at least eight points. Turner, who was responsible for guarding White, led the team with 16 points.
“It wasn’t one guy, it was everybody contributing,” Kramek said. “Everybody working the ball around, wanting to make that next pass, wanting to get that better shot. When our team plays like that, we’re very tough.”
Poolesville takes on Northwood (0-7) at 7 p.m. Friday. Northwood is coming off a 55-53 loss against Tuscarora (6-2).
“Despite the record, this is a really, really good Northwood team,” Kramek said. “We’re just going to have to show up to be competitive.”
Wheaton will look to get back on track with a home game against Albert Einstein.
“They’re a little bit bigger, they play a lot of zone defense so we got to be ready to move the ball and look to attack,” Hashim said. “It’s nice that we play tomorrow so that we can put this one behind us a lot earlier.”
Poolesville 55, Wheaton 45
Wheaton 15 2 10 18 -- 45
Poolesville 15 21 6 13 -- 55
Wheaton: Tyron White 21; Ibrahim Kallon 15; Jacob Payne 2; Langston Payne 2; Darius Eddings 3; Seydi Diop 2.
Poolesville: Collin Turner 16; Andy Baker 10; Kirby Carmack 10; Trevor Stottlemyer 9; Anthony Papagjika 8; Craig Morton 2.