Photo via Twitter
By Savannah Brooks
Leading by eight going into the fourth quarter, the Wildcats’ fans were sure they would see a win at home on Friday night, especially after the Arundel varsity team had won their Overtime Holiday Live! tournament over break, but were disappointed.
The game at Arundel against South River High School started out slow, with only 25 combined points on the board in the first quarter. Although the gym was packed for the final game of the tripleheader, the players’ shoes could be heard squeaking due to the quiet. The second quarter was very similar, with most of both teams’ points coming from floaters in the middle of the floor after splitting the defense. Senior Gregory Borges, a guard from Arundel, who had been producing spectacularly for the Wildcats off the bench, unfortunately, got into trouble with three fouls with about five minutes left in the quarter, forcing him to be subbed out. Arundel continued to foul, however, sending the Seahawks to the line seemingly every possession, and making most of their free throws. Senior Eric Sondberg from South River, who had been a two-way problem the entire game, elevated over the Arundel defense for a floater that put him into double digits with 4:20 left, causing Coach Ramsey to call an Arundel timeout.
Coming off of the timeout, the Wildcats were much more aggressive on defense and offense. They had two incredible blocks in the final two minutes, with sophomore Robert Keith stuffing a layup attempt and freshman Azim Sana skying to swat away a close jump shot. The two teams traded threes to close out the half, with sophomore Brien Hill from South River and senior Deon Hebron from Arundel hitting one each from beyond the arc. The half finished in South River’s favor, 29-22.
The second half threatened to be a repeat of the first quarter in the beginning, with sloppy and slow offensive play from both teams and quiet defense from Arundel. However, things really started to pick up for the home team with around 6:20 left in the third, starting with a three from senior Nick Steckel. The gym, after an impressive performance from the Arundel cheerleaders at halftime, erupted into cheers. This pushed the Wildcats to improve in their offense, leading to an amazing pass from senior Bobby Brown to Hebron for the finish. Arundel also improved on their defense, with an emphatic block by freshman Jaylin Payne with about five minutes left. Steckel hit another three soon after, really amping up the student section. The students started a “defense!” chant, causing South River to miss a three. The visiting team made more and more offensive mistakes while Arundel was in a rhythm at their end. After a nice euro step drive from Hebron, Jalen Belgrave was knocked to the ground on a three-point attempt by Payne. There was no call, and the game continued, with Belgrave obviously upset. A jump ball between the two led to both players unwilling to let go of the ball, and Payne ripping it away from Belgrave. Payne, however, was sat before things got too intense. The Seahawks never improved in the quarter, even throwing up an airball. The Wildcats went into the fourth leading 39-31.
Sondberg had already been having an incredible game, arguably the most effective player from either team. He certainly didn’t disappoint in the fourth. He started things off loudly, converting an and-1 drive with a made foul shot to a block on sophomore Nigel Omostosho. Arundel held their own until about halfway through the quarter. Following a South River timeout, the Seahawks seemingly refused to go down. Junior Asa Evans hit a three right off of the timeout, and then an Arundel turnover quieted down the Arundel crowd and got the South River crowd buzzing. Straight after, Payne fouled out on a botched call on a clean block. This is when Sondberg began to step up. He spun for a nice floater, making it a one-point game. Junior Jamison Gaskins put the Seahawks in the lead soon after with two made free throws with 1:35 left in the game. Coach Ramsey called a timeout to formulate a plan to get the lead back, but Arundel was not able to perform as well as they had in the third. Hebron missed the tying free throw, and a jump ball where Arundel had possession led to a turnover. Three three-point attempts at the very end came up short, and South River were the victors, 49-45.