The RM boys varsity basketball team improved to 7-3 after a nail-biting 61-59 victory over the Northwest Jaguars. Both teams were determined to win Thursday night, as it was one of the most highly anticipated games of the regular season.
The Rockets got off to a solid start, winning the tip-off and maintaining the lead throughout the first quarter despite the Jaguars’ relentless defense. Neither team was willing to let the other get inside the paint, and while Northwest hit a few long range shots, RM was able to grab several offensive rebounds. Fastbreak points off of forced turnovers also contributed to the Rockets offense, putting RM ahead 17-14 at the end of the quarter.
However, varsity veteran Daryn Alexander picked up 3 fouls early on and ended up benched at the beginning of the second quarter in fear of him fouling out. The rest of team followed in Alexander’s footsteps and the Rockets quickly found themselves over the limit with 7 team fouls. Fortunately the Jaguars weren’t able to take advantage of it, making only 2 of their 7 free throw attempts. The game heated up as the score remained close, and the aggression both teams played with quickly earned them 8 fouls each. The back-and-forth half finally came to a close, the Rockets on top 29-23.
Refreshed and energized, the Jaguars came out for the third quarter firing on all cylinders. RM struggled to navigate through the opposition’s aggressive defense, and it led to unanswered points from the Jaguars. As the Jags gained momentum, they also gained their first lead of the night. With the Rockets down 5, the crowd became more engaged and rallied behind the Rockets.
Alexander led the charge, scoring 5 points and setting up 2 more with a steal. Going on a 7 point run coming out of a timeout, the Rockets were back in it. The remainder of the third quarter was filled with electrifying action, and RM held on to a tight 47-45 lead.
At the start of the fourth, the tension was visible as neither team scored any points for the first 2 minutes. The Rockets struck first with a couple of field goals, but Northwest used their strong outside shooters, as they had in the beginning of the game, to make up the deficit. Going into the final minute of the game RM was trailing 56-57, but Nitin Bandi hit a key three-pointer that put RM ahead by 2 with mere seconds left.
It seemed all the Rockets had to do was hold onto the ball, but the next Jaguar possession, RM committed a foul that sends Tyrone Mayer to line. He hit both of his free throws to keep Northwest in the game. Alexander took the throw-in beneath Northwest’s basket, everything seemingly happening in slow-motion as the team shifted down the court for what would be the final play of the game.
Alexander drove through Northwest defenders at the top of the circle, drawing a double-team before dumping the pass to a wide-open Xavier Harris. The Jaguars swarmed Harris desperately, forcing him to fumble with the pass. Harris grabbed the loose ball, jumped, and shot at the basket blindly just before the final buzzer went off.
The shot bounced off the backboard and fell into the hoop. The crowd went wild; the bench, untamable. Everyone was on their feet, hollering and cheering as the RM team flooded the court.
“I knew we needed the points, and it didn’t matter if they fouled me, so I had to stay focused and keep my mind right,” says Harris as he gave the Rockets a well-deserved win.
The boys will have a competitive next couple of weeks as they face top-ranked teams such as Gaithersburg and Seneca Valley, their rivals Rockville, and rematches against Wootton and Northwest.
Featured photo by Lifetouch