Although some coaches are not exactly enamored with the idea of what they might term “settling” for jump shots, Friends School basketball coach Albert Holley is a little bit different in that regard.
In a key Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference showdown against Gerstell Academy, the Quakers were able to jump shoot their way into a playoff berth while closing the door on the Falcons’ post-season hopes by taking a close 53-51 decision in Finksburg on Wednesday night.
In crunch time with Gerstell in full rally mode, silky smooth senior guards Ross Jones and Jihar Williams were able to hold off the Falcons by making clutch jumper after clutch jumper.
Jones, who also nailed a free throw, drained three mid-range jumpers in the period while Willams added two 3-pointers and two foul shots to account for all of the Quakers’ 15 fourth-quarter points.
Jones finished with a game-high 27 points.
“We live by it (jump shooting) and die by it,” said Friends coach Albert Holley, whose team went to 14-10 overall and evened its record at 6-6 in conference play. “And we made just enough of them to win the game. When we’re making jump shots, we’re a pretty good team. When we’re not making jump shots, we get a little discouraged sometimes and our defense falls apart.”
All of the shots were needed because of the way Gerstell was playing down the stretch, especially Max Friedman, who hit two 3-pointers and made a tricky reverse layup in a comeback bid that fell just short.
The Falcons (13-14, 5-7) did manage to tie the score on a put-back and free throw by Kyle Washington with 37 seconds remaining in regulation, only to give up a pair of free throws to Williams with 16 seconds to go that were the game’s final points.
A turnover with nine seconds left sealed Gerstell’s fate.
“The effort was there,” Gerstell coach Ben Thompson said. “But turnovers and missed free throws really hurt us. By February, you hope you’re not still making those kind of mistakes.”
Thompson knew that Friends’ potent backcourt would be difficult to beat.
“Those guys are just really good players and tough to defend,” he added.
Jones said that he realized it was up to him and Williams to take charge with the game on the line.
“The game was getting pretty close, and we are the seniors,” he said. “We’re the guys that do the heavy lifting, so that was my mindset.”
The game was tight all the way through, with five lead changes in the first half until Jones’ buzzer-beating three-pointer from the corner gave the Quakers a 28-22 halftime advantage.
The lead widened to 32-24 in the third period before Gerstell center Tyler Tillery muscled his way on the offensive boards to earn a put-back and three consecutive free throws before teammate Brad Wilt swished a short jumper to shave the deficit to a point.
The Quakers pulled away to six-point cushion midway through the final quarter Friedman halved it with a 3-ball with just under three minutes to go.
A Jones jumper bumped Friends on top, 51-46, before Wilt finished a fast break and Washington drew the Falcons even.
“I thought our patience was working for us on defense and understanding what we wanted to do — and by and large getting it done,” Holley said.
Friends and Archbishop Curley are both currently tied for second place in the Black Division of the B Conference, as Curley defeated St. John’s Catholic Prep, 54-50, on Wednesday, while Gerstell is one game back in fourth-place. Although Gerstell could still mathematically force a three-way tie or a two-way tie with either team, it comes up in short in all tie-break scenarios and this will not advance to the post-season.
Should Gerstell, which hosts Indian Creek on Friday, end up in a two-way tie with Curley, the Friars have the edge by virtue of an earlier win over first-place St. Paul’s. In a two-way tie between Gerstell and Friends, the Quakers would have the advantage because of its two wins over Curley as compared to just won win for the Falcons. In a three-way tie, Friends would take the second seed by virtue of a 3-1 overall record. The remaining slot would then be settled by the two-way tie-breaker in which Curley would retain its edge over Gerstell.
Friends swept Curley during the regular season, so it will be the second seed in a two-way tie for second with the Friars. Curley could finish second if it were to upset St. Paul’s for the second time this year, on Friday, and Friends fell to St. John’s, in its finale on Friday.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated that Gerstell would take the third seed in a three-way tie with Friends and Curley. This was incorrect. The three-way would favor Friends with a 3-1 head-to-head record among the teams, as opposed to Gerstell’s 2-2 mark and Curley’s 1-3 record. However, MIAA rules stipulate that once the three-way tie-breaker is applied to advance the first team, the remaining two teams revert back to the two-way tie-breaker, which favors Curley. VSN regrets this error.
FRIENDS SCHOOL 53, GERSTELL ACADEMY 51
Friends 12 16 10 15 – 53
Gerstell 13 9 12 17 – 51
FRIENDS SCHOOL: Ross Jones 27, Jihar Williams 14, Jordan Derry 5, Jacob Rainess 2, Kavon Samuels 3, Skylar Kessenich 2. TOTALS: 19 12-17 53.
GERSTELL ACADEMY: Brad Wilt 14, Max Friedman 14, Tyler Tillery 9, Anthony Carpenter 6, Kyle Washington 6, Team 2. TOTALS: 19 7-13 51.