Third-year Potomac High School boys' basketball coach Renard Johnson doesn't always wear his heart on his sleeve but when the final buzzer sounded on the Wolverines' 64-51 win against Frederick County's Oakdale in the Class 2A state championship game held Saturday at the University of Maryland, College Park's Comcast Center, he admittedly “lost it.”
The reason? Well, a main one anyway: University of Maryland recruit Dion Wiley.
Three years ago, Johnson took over a struggling Potomac program coming off a two-win 2010-11 season. There was a young player named Wiley that Johnson had heard good things about, he said, but not much else.
“After [Wiley] made a name for himself at Potomac, he could've gone anywhere,” Johnson said. “There were rumors every summer [that he was leaving]. But every day he was there in school. That's what that emotion was about.”
Saturday's win marked Potomac's first state championship since 2005, fourth overall, and has been three years in the making. Since joining the program three years ago, Johnson has built up a team that truly represents the Potomac High community, a literal neighborhood team — Johnson said he could leave his mother's house, pick up all 13 players on the roster, and be at the school in 20 minutes' time. In his first year the Wolverines went from two wins to 18. Last year they won 22 in a run to the state final and Saturday marked their 23rd victory of 2013-14.
Wiley, of course, played a role in that win, with 13 points and playing a bit of point guard. But the Wolverines boast arguably the deepest, most talented team in state basketball — a gift that can also present its own challenges. It's possible Potomac would not have been lifting the winner's trophy Saturday evening had it not been for 6-foot-7 center Quadree Smith, Johnson said.
The senior transfer from Paul VI owned the glass, pulling down a game-high 19 rebounds. He also added 14 points, perhaps none as important as the three he scored on an and one after Oakdale pulled within four points midway through the fourth quarter.
“When I scored that bucket, I knew from then on it was our game,” Smith said. “[When we won] I was so happy, I was like a kid in a candy store. We're going to be able to reminisce about this 30 years from now.”
Potomac dominated the boards in general Saturday and that was a major factor in the outcome of the game — Johnson said he believes rebounding wins championships. The Wolverines' size advantage was an obvious one — six players at 6-foot-5 or taller — and one there was little Oakdale could do to contend with. Potomac outrebounded the Bears, 49-28, overall and had 33 defensive rebounds to Oakdale's 11.
Potomac also did a great job defensively, holding Oakdale's leading scorer Zach Thomas (25.9 points per game) to 13. It was a poor shooting night all around for the typically strong shooting Bears as they only converted 29.3 percent of their field goal attempts; they only hit three 3-pointers out of 18. Clay Conner led Oakdale with 20 points and, at only 5-foot-9, made some spectacular plays against his much bigger defenders.
Internal and external expectations were high for Potomac and it was the Wolverines' game to win or lose. As they jumped to a 10-point, first-quarter lead, they controlled the game from the start.
“It feels great [to win the championship],” Wiley said. “Last year we came up very short, so we're real proud.”
Potomac 64, Oakdale 51
Oakdale 9 15 8 19 — 51
Potomac 19 8 15 22 — 64
Oakdale (21-5) — Clay Conner 20, Zach Thomas 13, Julius Sampson 10, Austin Gouldin 5.
Potomac (23-5) — Walter Broddie 18, Quadree Smith 14, Dion Wiley 13, Anthony Smith 10, David Rose 5.