Brian Brooks said it so nonchalantly that it was hardly believable, the only giveaway that he might be serious was his deadpan expression.
Michael West had been hurt since Christmas, Brooks said, and the Friendly High School basketball coach hadn’t even let him practice for more than a week, allowing light shooting on a side hoop, nothing more. So how to explain, then, West’s 28 points on 8-for-14 shooting in Friendly’s stunning 86-77 upset victory in overtime against No. 10 Crossland on Thursday night?
“Like Seth [Curry] at Duke,” Brooks said with a laugh, comparing West to the former Blue Devil who practiced sparingly at best during his senior year yet still averaged 17.5 points per game.
“I just shoot around, get some shots up,” West said. “That’s pretty much it.”
Thing is, Duke comparison and all, West wasn’t the most valuable player on the floor for the first 28 minutes, and it wasn’t even all that close a contest. That belonged to Darius Speaks.
The Crossland forward had single-handedly not only kept the Cavaliers in the game, but grinded enough to keep a six to 10-point lead for the majority of the night. By the end of the third quarter, with Crossland leading 66-56 and on a 10-2 run, Speaks had scored 25 points and snagged 16 rebounds.
At that point, it seemed that even if West’s torrid shooting streak — he scored 12 points in the third quarter without missing a shot — didn’t come to a complete halt, he would at least cool, and the Patriots would drop their ninth straight game. And West did briefly cool off, but then three other teammates, two of whom finished in double-figures, divvied out the scoring load.
Ravon Davis hit two layups for four of his 13 points on the night. Kevin Holston added two more in the lane plus a free throw for five of his 17. Then shooting guard Lonnie Gordon joined in, scoring all four of his points on the night in the final quarter. With 43.6 seconds left, the game was all square.
Crossland held for the last shot, which resulted in a decent look from 3-point land for Brandon Better, but it clanged off the front rim and four more minutes were put back on the scoreboard for overtime. From there, it was West all over again.
“We were saying we think we can beat anybody,” Holston said. “The way we practice, we press a lot, so we’re not the biggest team but we can beat anybody. They came in here and we were just like, ‘Let’s go hard, get the ‘W.’’”
All the Cavaliers really needed for their ‘W’ was West’s step-back 3-pointer on Friendly’s second possession of overtime, but he poured in two more free throws and Davis added an and-one for good measure and the upset was complete: previously 1-12 Friendly had beaten Crossland, a team that has topped Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A League heavyweights such as Gwynn Park and Central.
“I still think we had a big letdown tonight,” Crossland coach Steve Matthews said. “Take nothing away from Friendly, but I think we had a big letdown tonight.”
Friendly 86, Crossland 77
Friendly (2-13, 1-11) 16 21 19 19 11 — 86
Crossland (10-8, 7-7) 21 22 23 9 2 — 77
Friendly: Michael West 28, Kevin Holston 17, Ravon Davis 13, Jarell Moore 12, Dionte Johnson 12, Lonnie Gordon 4.
Crossland: Darius Speaks 27, Brandon Better 20, Javae Lampkins 12, Eric Landis 6, Ya’Sean Scott 4, Mike Middleton 4, Chucky Owens-Wilson 2, Kirkland Williams 2.