Magruder Advances to Regional Championship by Defeating Kennedy 62-48
Kennedy and Magruder had not played each other in four seasons. The only word to describe that is bizarre. The two 4A schools who both compete in the 4A West are located just eight miles apart. Meanwhile both Kennedy and Magruder play many teams in the 3A and 2A within Montgomery County every year.
While some may think that the two teams aren’t very familiar with each other because they never find each other on their respective schedules, that certainly isn’t the case.
In a gym that was completely sold out and started turning people away before the opening tip, it was evident that Kennedy came to play.
Marcus Murray, Kennedy’s star guard who is a four year starter and has averaged 16-20 points per game for the last three years was zero’d in on Wednesday night. He knew it was going to take a tremendous performance to get this win in front of a hostile crowd at Magruder.
Magruder on the other hand was just as calm and even keeled as they always are. While everyone who attended this game was dying to see the matchup between Murray and Magruder point guard, 5’6″ JJ Epps, the players didn’t buy in to the match-up. They were focused on getting a win, surviving, and getting the opportunity to play at Blair HS on Friday night with a birth to the Comcast Center on the line. While they were matched up on each other a fair amount it wasn’t the game plan to let the two go at it. In the first half when Magruder came out in man defense it was Magruder’s defensive stopper, senior Matt Ricketts who had the task of checking Murray.
Magruder’s first half man-to-man defense didn’t seem to do the job on Kennedy’s offense. At the half Kennedy trailed by three points, but had led for much of the half.
It was the half time adjustments that Magruder coach Dan Harwood made that practically won the game for the Colonels. Magruder came out in a match-up zone in the second half and Kennedy had no answer. The Cavaliers were content just passing the ball around the zone for minutes at a time. Occasionally someone would try to go back door or Murray would penetrate the D but Kennedy’s offense stagnated and they weren’t able to execute with the success they had in the first half. Magruder would outscore Kennedy 17-8 in the third quarter.
To start the fourth Kennedy trailed by double digits. They did have some early success with some outside shooting and even got the lead down to five with just two and a half minutes remaining. But seconds after they cut the lead to five JJ Epps came sprinting up the court and two Kennedy defenders tried to hold Epps up as he split their trap. The ref called an intentional foul and even Magruder fans were scratching their heads. It was the type of foul that you see in every basketball game. One team has a lead in the waning minutes and a defender just grabs the player with the ball, giving a foul, so they can get the ball back. Nothing dirty, nothing flagrant, just committing a common foul in attempts to extend the game. An intentional foul was called and it sent the Kennedy fans reeling. It was a terrible call. Kennedy was just starting to gain some momentum, and boom. Magruder goes to the line, makes two free throws, and retains possession. From that point on Magruder made free throw after free throw and the lead ballooned to 14 by the time the final buzzer sounded.
Justin Witmer, JJ Epps, and Nick Griffin all had tremendous games. The three seniors combined for 50 points. Matt Ricketts played the type of defense that he has all season. At Capitol Hoops we call him the best on ball defender in Montgomery County. He lived up to that tonight.
A telling stat in this game was both teams free throw shooting.
Magruder shot 22-27 while Kennedy made three of only six attempts on the evening.
Like Magruder Kennedy had a balanced attack on the offensive side as well. Three Cavaliers scored between 11 and 14 on the night. They were led by Murray’s 14.
Murray and Magruder’s Nick Griffin each connected on four triples. Justin Witmer had a big time first half dunk that really got the Colonel Crazies’ going.
With the win Magruder advances to the Maryland 4A West regional chmpionship at Blair High School on Friday. They play Quince Orchard, a team that they have already beaten twice this season.
Back on January 4th, Magruder won 59-48 against Quince. That game was at Magruder. One month later on February 4th Magruder won 54-39. Two solid wins but they weren’t really able to open it up on QO in either game.
After dropping their first two games of the season Quince is since 18-4 with two of those losses coming to Magruder. Like Kennedy, Quince Orchard certainly has a chance to pull the upset. Will Magruder be a hefty favorite? Yes. But remember this Magruder team did lose two ball games this year against Springbrook and Clarksburg.
See everyone at Blair High School Friday night at 7PM.