Brandon Loiocono, as is customary, reached to shake hands with Springbrook coach Tom Crowell during pregame introductions. Crowell grabbed Loiocono's hand, pulled him close, smiled and said, “I'm not going to get you 20 tonight.”
Loiocono scored a game-high 20 points in Sherwood's 4A North championship-game win over Springbrook last year. And though Springbrook held Loiocono to 15 points Tuesday, that was again a game high as he led Sherwood to a 51-42 victory in Sandy Spring.
“He's a very good player,” Crowell said. “I like him a lot. I'd love to have him.”
Sherwood has now won three straight over Springbrook, its longest win streak in the series since at least 2005. Though both teams have 7-4 records, they're trending in opposite directions. Sherwood has won three straight, and Springbrook has lost three straight. Sherwood is 4-0 in the Montgomery 4A East, and Springbrook is 0-4 in the division.
“A lot of teams underestimated us, which is fine, because they do it every year,” Sherwood coach Dondrell Whitmore said. “I think now the guys are starting to see that and starting to step up.”
Another surprise: As well as Loiocono played Tuesday, the decisive stretch came with him on the bench. Sherwood opened the fourth quarter on a 15-0 run to break open what had been a tied game.
“I had to give him a little rest, because I had seen he used a lot of energy in the first few quarters,” Whitmore said.
When Sherwood's other players moved the ball well on offense and locked in on defense, Whitmore stuck with them.
“I'm as happy as can be,” Loiocono said of his mind set while on the bench. “To see our team clicking like that makes me feel great.”
Springbrook focused on taking away Loiocono's 3-point shot — he didn't make one all game — but he converted several backdoor cuts and putbacks to score anyway. Time and time again, he made the big and small plays necessary to win.
“He wanted it more than Springbrook,” Whitmore said. “…He's hungry for a win. He knew it was a very important game for us.”
Throughout the game, Springbrook worked to get many good shots, but just missed them. Crowell said that's been a problem lately, one that has reached a level he's never seen before, and he's not sure whether it's a correctable issue or just a run of bad luck.
“I think I'm in the Twilight Zone,” Crowell said. “I mean, I really do. It's crazy. I don't know. I love my team. They're playing hard. They're playing good defense. We're struggling to score right now. That's the bottom line.”
To Whitmore, on the other hand, the game was completely explainable.
“Our guys wanted it more tonight,” he said.
Sherwood 51, Springbrook 42
Springbrook 13 10 9 19 — 51
Sherwood 12 16 4 10 — 42
Springbrook (7-4, 0-4): Tomazye Anderson 15, Andrew Robinson 14, Nick Brewer 6, Jarod Mustaf 4, Isaiah Eisendorf 3.
Sherwood (7-4, 4-0): Brandon Loiocono 15, Joey DeStefano 9, Xavier McCants 9, Ellis Dozier 9, Daryl Brown 3, Chris Williams 2, Devin Gallager 2, Richard Wheeler 2.