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Gar-Field Takes Cardinal Banner in Thriller, 59-56

- Thursday, the Indians held off a late Potomac rally to capture the district title 59-56 in front of a raucous home crowd.

Gar-Field Takes Cardinal Banner in Thriller, 59-56

After the final buzzer, the cutting of the net, and more than a few photo ops., it was story time.

Behind closed locker room doors, Gar-Field head coach Andy Gray regaled his team with a blow-by-blow of the last time (2005) the Indians won a Cardinal District title.

Those Indians overcame long odds against a Hylton squad that boasted a 7-footer and out-sized the Smoketown Road gang across the board.

Consider 2013 the same story, different chapter.

Thursday, the Indians (21-4, 11-1) held off a late Potomac rally to capture the district title 59-56 in front of a raucous home crowd.

Gray, who acknowledged that the Panthers have all the ingredients for a deep postseason run, was direct about his team’s near-flawless execution.

“Certainly we consider this an overachieving win,” he said.

Gar-Field opened the game on a 14-4 run. Senior Navy-commit Zach Fong, who averages 18 points per game, hit three triples in the first quarter alone.

Fong and Curtis Lovitt accounted for thirty of the Indians’ thirty-two first half points, spurring Gar-Field to a 32-26 lead at the break.

“Our teammates know that when we’re hitting, when we’re on, to give us the ball in open spots,” said Fong of the hot hands.

Setting up second-chance opportunities for Fong and Lovitt were big men Xavier Roscoe and Tremayne Bailey, who dominated the boards despite giving up a few inches in height to their Potomac counterparts.

“Tonight, they beat us up on the glass pretty good,” said Potomac coach Keith Honore. “They out-rebounded us from an offensive perspective, which is a recipe for disaster.”

But Potomac (18-6, 11-1) didn’t go away. Joe Velez, who was held to one field goal in the first half, heated up from the behind the arc late.

A Velez three cut Gar-Field’s lead to two, 49-47, with 6:20 left to play, and a minute later he followed up to give Potomac a 50-49 advantage.

With the game in the balance, standouts and role players alike stepped up for the Indians. Fong hit a fade-away three to put Gar-Field back within one at 3:20.

Getting into the bonus helped too. Bailey was fouled at the three-minute mark, and converted both ends of the one-and-one. The second free throw put Gar-Field up for good at 54-53.

A designed play off an ensuing in-bound padded the Indians’ lead to three. Gray was happy his team was able to manufacture a few points with guile.

“We executed some gimmicks well and got a basket here and a basket there,” said Gray.

Up three with a little over ninety seconds to play, Gray called timeout and dialed up a stall.

“We called it on the fly,” he recalled. “Once we got up three, we spread out.”

They were able to spread it out for upwards of forty seconds, before dumping the rock off to an open Bailey under the basket for an easy layup, making it 58-53 with forty seconds on the clock.

Honore immediately called timeout, and on the inbound, Velez rubbed open and drained a three to make it a one-possession game once again at 58-56. The play only took two seconds and change off the clock.

Roscoe was promptly fouled in the backcourt, and began the long walk down the court for his one-and-one with a chance to seal the game.

He could feel the moment starting to hit him.

“We go through free throws a lot, but I was so nervous,” said Roscoe. His first shot rimmed out, but somehow Lovitt, wedged between two Panthers, secured the rebound. He funneled it out to Roscoe who was again fouled.

For Honore, the play was emblematic of his squad’s inability to compete on the boards.

“We didn’t box out,” said Honore. “It’s a huge rebound, one-possession game. But that one play didn’t lose the game for us.”

Knowing that second chances are elusive, Fong gave Roscoe the only words of encouragement he could muster in that moment.

“I told him [Roscoe] ‘Dude, you’ve gotta at least get one.’” He did, swishing the first to put Gar-Field up by the final tally.

Potomac never got a clean look at an equalizer on its final possession.

Northwest Regional tournament seeding, already set before Thursday’s final, has Gar-Field hosting Commonwealth District number-three seed North Stafford on Saturday.

Potomac holds a bye in the first round and will host the winner of Battlefield/Franklin County on Tuesday.

Potomac 56, Gar-Field 59

GF: Fong 29, Lovitt 17, Bailey 8, Roscoe 5

POT: Haynes 15, Dixon 13, Porter 12, Velez 11, Felder 3, Bediako 1

Halftime: Gar-Field, 32-26

3-pointers: POT 7 (Velez 3, Dixon 2, Haynes, Porter), GF 6 (Fong 6)

Free throws: POT (7 of 10) GF (10 of 14)
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