May 26, 2018

It’s not a football title, but Walkersville strikes revenge against Damascus on the hardwood

Walkersville's Josh Polce hoists a jumper against Damascus on Friday, February 23. Austin McFadden/MSA.

WALKERSVILLE — The sheer stakes of postseason basketball supplies enough motivation in itself, but Friday night’s MPSSAA boys’ basketball first-round playoff contest between Damascus and Walkersville carried an added incentive for the host Lions.

In November, the two collided on the football field in the 2A West region championship, which staged as one of the most hyped prep football games in Maryland history, since both won state titles the year prior (Damascus in 3A and Walkersville in 2A) before realignment bumped the Hornets down a classification. Damascus outdueled Walkersville in an epic slugfest, 7-3, but the Hornets’ game-winning touchdown came with 12 players on the field during an officiating mishap, sparking uproar around the controversy that hasn’t fully subsided. That gave this otherwise ordinary first-round game extra flare.

In the end, Walkersville got what they sought for: Revenge in a 71-69 victory.

“Anytime I see that school name, [Damascus], I’m coming out, I’m coming for them. Especially now,” said senior forward Jerimiah Sweet, who led Walkersville with a team-high 17 points. “It’s good to get one on Damascus. Not a football title, but anything is anything. You got to get what you can get.”

Walkersville’s student section and team, in warm ups, donned yellow shirts that read “12th man” in blue lettering. This past week, leading up to Friday night, Lions’ coach Mike Mathis noticed a heightened level of exuberance, especially from the six football players that play on the team. At times, though, they were a little too eager. 

“It’s not a football state title, but it’s definitely good to get one on them. Hopefully they had a couple football guys,” Mathis said. “They were excited. I actually had to tell them to calm down.”

Walkersville, which will now play at Seneca Valley on Monday at 6 p.m., came out swinging and took a 22-6 lead on the first possession of the second quarter. At that point, the Lions knocked down 9 of 14 shots and forced six Damascus turnovers. But the Hornets, thanks to Mason Green’s valiant 39-point effort, never wavered and made things interesting down the stretch.

After Damascus went down 16, Green turned up the dial, scoring 17 of his team’s next 20 points to make it 32-27 minutes before halftime. The Lions kept Green quiet in the third quarter and hit their first five field goals of the second half to extend their lead to 45-31. During that pivotal stretch, Walkersville was able to exploit mismatches with Sweet, a big-bodied forward at 6-foot-2, and 6-5 forward Nephi Okonah.

“We knew we had some good matchups on them,” Sweet said.

Walkersville took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter and upped it to 58-46 on a Zach Mathis 3-pointer with 6:30 remaining. The lead stuck at 12 with 1:30 left in regulation, when Davis Kelley (11 points) sank two free throws in the beginning of a series of Damascus intentional fouls. But after that, the Lions made just 1 of 6 at the line, opening the door for the Hornets, who ripped off an 9-0 run to pull within 70-67 with 8.3 seconds left. 

“I thought we came out the right way, but that’s been our M.O.; to look at the scoreboard,” Mathis said. “When we need to put people away, we don’t seem to do that. We lose our mental focus. … We were just dribbling the ball. We weren’t screening. Turning the ball over. Just weren’t playing our style.”

“At this point in the year, the best words to hear is that there’s practice tomorrow. Wasn’t pretty, but we got that one out of the way.”

Senior guard Josh Polce added 13 points for Walkersville and freshman guard Jacob Montgomery pitched in with nine.

Say if Walkersville beats Seneca Valley on Monday night, it’ll either play at Williamsport or host Middletown on Wednesday for the 2A West Section II title. The Lions are 0-2 against Middletown this year and 1-1 against Williamsport. But the odds are against the Lions, since Seneca Valley, winners of the past two 3A West region titles, hasn’t lost a home playoff game since 2014.

When asked if he thinks his team is flying under the radar, Mathis responded, “Those teams have earned it. Oakdale,[the top seed in Section I at 22-1], is a powerhouse. Seneca [Valley] has won two years straight in 3A. Whatever they were before [Triston Price] got hurt, they’re team that can win the whole thing. We have to play a ton better on Monday, that’s for sure.”

About Kyle McFadden 416 Articles
Kyle McFadden is a graduate from Linganore High School's Class of 2014, a sports junkie and general news-hound. He got his start as a sports writer in January 2014 for Linganore's student-run newspaper The Lance, where he wrote 13 articles. McFadden then launched his own blog in October 2014 called The Beltway Dispatch covering collegiate, local high school and professional sports. Formally known as The Beltway Dispatch, McFadden and Evan Engelhard merged respective platforms in June 2015 to make what is now Maryland Sports Access. With baseball, basketball and golf experience, McFadden brings ample knowledge to the helm of MSA. McFadden covers a wide variety of sports in football, baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, lacrosse, soccer and specializes in the collegiate and high school levels. McFadden volunteers his time at Damascus Road Community Church -- serving as a mentor to the youth, basketball coach at the varsity and junior varsity levels, and leads a small group of high school sophomores every Wednesday night. Although he's only been around journalism since January 2014, he's a high school sports reporter for The Baltimore Sun and freelancer for The Frederick News-Post. McFadden's work has also appeared in DMV newspapers The Aegis, The Capital Gazette, The Daily Times (Delmarva Now), The Hometown Observer, Howard County Times, Germantown Pulse and The Towson Times. He's also won two Mike Powell Excellence in Journalism awards and has appeared on The Best of SNO, which showcases top student work of high school and college journalists. McFadden currently studies at Frederick Community College and plans to transfer to the University of Maryland in the fall of 2018 to work on a bachelor's degree in journalism with aspirations to be a national college basketball writer.
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1 Comment on It’s not a football title, but Walkersville strikes revenge against Damascus on the hardwood

  1. Walkersville’s poor sportsmanship was on full display. Funny how nobody mentions the other “bad” calls in that game that gave Walkersville advantages they should not have had. I think the real issue here is that Walkersville won’t be back to states now that their “dream team” is graduating and Damascus will continue to win. Go Seneca Valley!

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