With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter and Largo High School on its way to winning its first-round boys basketball playoff game against Central, sophomore forward Abdulai Bundu found himself tangled in a mess of arms and torsos, fighting for a rebound.
Bundu, who's 6-foot-6, eventually ripped the ball away from a pair of Central's players once a jump ball was called. He carried it with him toward his team's bench with a determined stride. Mad, even.
As Bundu paced around with the ball clutched to his chest, senior guard Dion Garner wrapped his arm around Bundu's shoulder and pointed to the scoreboard. He could relax. He could detach himself from the ferocious persona he developed in this, his first playoff game. And, with the crowd standing and applauding his efforts, he could turn to fellow forward — senior John Majors — and realize that the powerful pair just delivered one of the more dominant frontcourt performances in Prince George's County this season.
“It was a good feeling knowing that you hustled for the ball and the crowd, knowing the crowd is on your side, it's one of the best feelings,” Bundu said.
At the end of Largo's 77-62 victory against the Falcons in the Maryland 2A South Region playoffs on a rainy Tuesday night, Majors and Bundu each finished with 22 points while Majors grabbed 20 rebounds and Bundu pulled down 19. That's 44 points and 39 rebounds from two players. As a team Central collected 19 rebounds.
“We knew going into the game what their strengths were,” Central coach Lawrence Pugh said. “For the first time this year, we played a 2-3 [zone]. We tried to get more bodies in there, but they're just too good inside. They're real technical.”
During Largo's run to the state title game last season, Bundu wore street clothes and watched from the student section. Majors subbed in the final minute of their title game loss against Lake Clifton. They both marveled at the work of a dangerous frontcourt pair in their own right: former seniors Damonte McNeill and Michael Graham. Bundu and Majors haven't forgotten what their predecessors taught them.
“I watched them a lot last year,” Majors said. “I looked at how the guys led and tried to get the job done.”
Added Bundu: “Damante, he's where I get my post moves from. He told me to go out there and if you believe you're the best, you'll play like the best. And Mike taught me that every rebound is yours. He had an amazing vertical leap. I just try to go out and do what he did.”
Despite holding a 24-10 rebounding edge at the half, the Lions led by only seven. Central closed the gap even further in the third quarter as senior guard Calvin Lovitt — feeding off an energetic home crowd — connected on a pair of 3-pointers and another pair of tough pull-up jumpers. A steal and layup by Central's Kamron Hall pulled the Falcons to within 47-46 with 2 minutes and 59 seconds remaining in the third, but the Lions closed the quarter on a 6-3 run and ensured they would never trail.
To start the fourth, Majors scored four consecutive baskets for his team — three of the put-back variety — to increase Largo's lead to 61-51. Garner was the team's third-leading scorer, with 19, including three first-quarter triples.
“When the guards play well and the bigs play well, we're a tough team to beat,” said Largo coach Lewis Howard, who lost eight seniors from last year's team. “We took some bumps and bruises throughout the season, but that only prepared us for what we're about to embark on now.”
In addition to dominating in the paint, Largo also did an exceptional job of getting to the line as the Lions converted 23 of 34 free-throw attempts. Conversely, Central made 8 of 13. After connecting on seven 3-pointers in the first half, the Falcons' stroke from distance fell cold in the final 16 minutes and nobody was there to corral the misses.
“Overall, it was a great season,” Pugh said. “Central basketball is here to stay. Three or four years ago, we were the laughing stock. Now, I think we're legitimate. We just need some bigs. Let everyone know, if you're 6-foot-6, you'll start for me.”
Largo 77, Central 62
Largo 25 12 16 24 – 77
Central 13 19 17 13 – 62
Largo (13-9): Abdulai Bundu 22, John Majors 22, Dion Garner 19, Daemond Carter 8, Connie Ihearahu 3, Aaron Thomas 3.
Central (13-8): Calvin Lovitt 21, Micheal Hooks 10, Kamron Hall 10, Davon Taylor 9, John Brown 6, Daniel Harvell 4, Dequan Smith 2.