Gwynn Park High School’s boys basketball team was already without leading scorer Jalen Harris against Friendly on Thursday, but after Ackhel Bazil fouled out at the end of regulation, the Yellow Jackets were also missing their top defensive player. So playing shorthanded made their thrilling overtime victory even sweeter.
With 3.6 seconds remaining in overtime, junior Cedric Hines took an inbounds pass, drove the length of the court, and converted a left-handed layup at the buzzer to give his team a 65-64 win over the Patriots. The victory extended Gwynn Park’s winning streak to four games as it heads into the playoffs.
“All I was thinking in my mind was, ‘Please make the layup.’ It’s unexplainable right now,” said Bazil, who watched the final moments from the sideline. “To watch my team without me and our leading scorer. They made me proud.”
Added Hines: “That was the biggest moment of my life.”
Trailing 62-60 in the final minute of overtime, Gwynn Park’s Xavier Duckworth dove to the floor for a loose ball and managed to slide a pass to Hines while on the ground, which led to a old-fashioned 3-point play.
On the next possession, Friendly’s Michael West hit a bank shot to give the Patriots a 64-63 lead with 3.6 seconds remaining.
Gwynn Park coach Michael Glick then called a timeout before setting up the Hines’ game-winner — a play the team had practiced more than 30 times over the last few practices.
“It was exactly how we drew it up,” Glick said.
The Patriots went ahead early, leading by 12 points in the second quarter. The Yellow Jackets, aided by Bazil’s defensive effort, slowly crept back into the game. He had four blocks, including a pair in the third quarter that helped swing the momentum in Gwynn Park’s favor. Bazil had 16 blocks in a win 68-44 win against Largo on Tuesday and averages nine per game.
Patriots guard Kevin Collins had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, but Terry Martin forced him to take a difficult shot. Martin was one of several role players to make significant contributions in the victory.
Harris, a senior, was out due to undisclosed reasons.
“We’re only as strong as our weakest link and once you kids start understanding that, you’ll be a championship team,” Glick told his team after the game.
Gwynn Park has grown accustomed to playing in close games. Before its four-game winning streak, the team suffered three consecutive losses by a combined six points.
“This game is typical of our league,” Glick said. “Our league has been a one or two point league all year long. It’s our third overtime game. Every game we play has been close.”
In addition to hitting the game-winner, Hines also made a pair of clutch free throws with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. Hines and junior Mike Pegram led the team in scoring with 16 points, while Evan Joiner tallied 15.
“Right now, I feel like we’re a state championship team,” Bazil said. “We’re going to states. We’re going all the way.”
Gwynn Park 65, Friendly 64
Gwynn Park (10-8) 13 12 13 20 7 — 65
Friendly (11-11) 18 13 8 19 6 — 64
Gwynn Park: Cedric Hines 16, Mike Pegram 16, Evan Joiner 15, Rashawn Boyd 8, Ackhel Bazil 5, John Wilburn 4, Anwar Mack 1.
Friendly: Kevin Collins 20, Michael West 17, Brandon Robinson 8, Michael Clarke 5, Alpha Kamara 5, Emmanuel Edmonds 5, Kevin Holston 2, Bryan Xymnis 2.