RM Basketball holds on for narrow victory over Northwest

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Evan Scheinberg

Despite not having senior guard Julian Watson and constant lead changes throughout the game, the RM Boy’s Varsity Basketball Team held on to beat Northwest this Friday, with a final score of 63-59.

The Rockets took the floor before the opening tip with a starting lineup of Daniel Alexander, Joseph Contreras, Jonathan Custodio,  Zaire Mitchell, and Nasiir “Nas” Robinson. The tip was won by Mitchell and the ball was brought down by Contreras. On the Rockets’ first possession, Contreras dished the ball out to Robinson who sank the open three to give the Rockets an early 3-0 lead over the Jaguars. A quick 2 from the Jaguars gave the ball back to RM, but a pass just off the tips of Custodio’s fingers returned the ball back to the opponents, who capitalized and took the the lead, 4-3. Aggressive defense from both teams kept the first quarter scoring low, but Northwest’s offensive on the low post and in the paint eventually expanded their lead to 14-10 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter was underway with a lineup consisting of Seth Nosanchuk, Daniel Alexander, Julian Stover, Nas Robinson, and Zaire Mitchell. Not long into the quarter, senior guard Julian Stover caught the defender on a jab step, and drove all the way to the hoop for a beautiful eurostep layup to avoid the charging foul. It was definitely clear that Coach Breslaw adjusted the Rockets’ defense to concentrate on defending the low post, as the forced Northwest’s offense to take perimeter shots. The Rockets’ fluent ball movement led to several possessions in a row that resulted in scoring, including a steal by Julian Stover which would lead to a Nas Robinson and-1 on the layup finish. A few possessions later, using the same move as before, Stover performed a near impossible up-and-under reverse layup to get the crowd hyped up. Stover and the rest of the boys continued their aggressiveness on offense and defense, leading to great hustle plays. The Rockets maintained their lead after a three pointer from Jonathan Custodio with seconds left in the first half. Both teams headed out of the gym with a halftime score of 28-24 in favor of Richard Montgomery.

After an amazing performance by the future of RM Poms, play resumed with the Jaguars first possession. The original starters took the court for RM, and just as they had been throughout last half, the Rockets’ aggressive defense continued, leading to a sensational coast to coast drive by Nas Robinson to start the half. After a few scoreless possessions, Joseph Contreras dished the ball inside to Zaire Mitchell, who finished at the rim and the foul, which he would convert into an old fashioned three point play. The Rockets’ defense continued to shine, leading to several turnovers by the Jaguars, which converted into fast break scores for the Rockets as they continued to outhustle the Jaguars. The Rockets and Jaguars alike executed fundamental skills extremely well, which kept the game closely contested. However, several controversial calls and no-calls in favor of the Jaguars let them shorten RM’s lead to just four at the end of the third quarter, with the score of 49-45.

As the final quarter commenced, Coach Breslaw sent Nas Robinson, both Julian and Jordan Stover, Seth Nosanchuk, and sophomore Daryn Alexander onto the court to finish off the Jaguars. Once again, even without a big man in the game, the Rockets’ offensive rebounding remained key, especially by Nas Robinson, who boxed out nearly every player on the court to secure several offensive rebounds. Although the Jaguars came storming back to take the lead, the Rockets adjusted into a ¾ court man defense, which turned out to be successful. With 3:53 left in the game, the Rockets clung to a 54-53 lead. The Jaguars converted on a few loosely defended layups, putting them up 57-56. After boxing out for a rebound, Zaire Mitchell fell awkwardly, which delayed the game. Coach Breslaw would replace him with Tolu Baiyashea, who picked up immediately where Mitchell left off. With about a 1:30 to go, Nas Robinson knocked down a clutch three, giving the Rockets the lead. A missed shot on the Jaguars’ possession, gave the ball back to the Rockets. Daniel Alexander, came off a pick set by Baiyashea and knocked down the open perimeter jump shot to put the Rockets up 61-57 with less than a minute left. The Jaguars brought the ball down and passed atop the key, attempting to run the clock down a little. But, senior Jonathan Custodio had other thoughts. He plucked the ball out with seconds remaining, and was immediately fouled. His steal and two clutch free throws would seal the deal, as the Rockets went on the claim their third victory of the season, with a final score of 63-59.

After the game, Julian Stover who finished with 11 key points, spoke on the subject of being aggressive. “Being aggressive and intense is a key part of my success as a basketball player. It’s what my coaches expect from me every game.” Senior Jonathan Custodio described what was going through his mind as he stole the ball to clinch the win. “I was just watching the ball and his hips, and he just happened to put the ball right in front of me, and I put my hand out and went between his legs. It’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Next Monday, on the 21st, the Rockets will be at Rockville playing against their main rival, as they look to continue their winning streak and improve their record to 4-2.