Rockets boys varsity basketball team suffers loss against Whitman after double overtime

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Rockets boys varsity basketball team suffers loss against Whitman after double overtime

Evan Scheinberg

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Despite outstanding defense and play from senior guards Jonathan Custodio and Julian Watson, turnovers and missed free throws led the Rockets to fall just short of the Vikings, with a final score of 66-65 in double overtime at Walt Whitman High School.

Coming into the game on a 13-game winning streak, the Rockets took the floor with a starting lineup of Jonathan Custodio, Nasiir “Nas” Robinson, Daniel Alexander, Julian Stover, and Zaire Mitchell. The Rockets went up early, after continually attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line, especially Julian Stover who got to the line several times in the opening quarter. Both teams found their defensive strides early on as neither side was able to find an open perimeter shot, which usually is a source of scoring for the Rockets. Despite the lack of perimeter shooting, both sides moved the ball through the post and kept it fluent as well. At the end of the first quarter, junior center Max Oppenheim from the opposing team hit his stride and scored 6 points for Whitman to put the Vikings up 13-9.

In need of an offensive wake-up call, the Rockets shuffled up the lineup, sending Joseph Contreras, Daryn Alexander, Julian Watson, Daniel Alexander, and Zaire Mitchell out on the court. Just seconds into the quarter, Julian Watson went up for a layup and drew the foul for the and-1. This was a spark for the Rockets, as their defense locked up and fast break baskets ensued by Daryn Alexander and Watson again. However, due to some woeful passing that resulted in turnovers by the Rockets, Whitman was able to stay in the game and maintain the lead after a 6-0 run with all points being scored by junior guard Shaq Diboti-Lobe. But the stellar defense continued, as they forced a Viking turnover with seconds left in the half and brought it down the court where Daniel Alexander pulled up for a smooth jump shot to put the Rockets within striking distance at the half, with a score of 20-16 in favor of the Vikings.

As the second half commenced, the original starters returned to floor looking to take over the game. The Rockets opened up the half regaining their outside shooting ability with back-to-back three pointers from Jonathan Custodio and Julian Stover to start off what would become a 17-10 run by the Rockets. The spark came when senior center Tolu Baiyashea checked into the game. His combination of footwork and brute strength bullied any of the Vikings that tried to hold him back. He grabbed rebound after rebound, leading to more and more offensive possessions for RM. Soon after he checked in, the Rockets went on a string of possessions that resulted in and-1 buckets for Daryn Alexander and Julian Watson. The Rockets continued their successful approach of offense and defense: center everything around the high and low post. This kept proving successful as Tolu continued to haul in rebounds and play lockdown defense on Max Oppenheim. Jonathan Custodio knocked down a three pointer as time expired, giving the Rockets the lead going into the final quarter of regulation, with a score of 38-32.

The fourth and final quarter of regulation began as the lineup that started the second quarter took the floor for the Rockets. The Rockets continued to push the ball and score on drives to the hoop, as well as compounding their superior rebounding totals. Despite the outstanding play, some controversial calls helped the Vikings stay close to the Rockets. As time began to wind down, the Rockets’ hustle began to show its power as Julian Stover dove on the ground to recover a loose ball, and was called for a traveling violation that was highly contested by coach Breslaw. With just two minutes left, Julian Stover got to the line and sunk a free throw to put the Rockets up 48-47. After a strong defensive possession, Jonathan Custodio recovered the ball and was fouled with just 20 seconds to go. He sank one of two free throws to give RM the two point lead. On the other side, Tolu Baiyashea fouled Shaq Diboti-Lobe with 5.7 seconds left in the game. He hit both free throws, giving possession back to the Rockets with a chance to win the game. With just two seconds left in regulation, the Vikings fouled Daniel Alexander and sent him to the line for two free throws. The Whitman crowd’s noise threw him off as he missed both, and a questionable foul call on the inbounds play put junior forward Hannes Kogelnik on the line to potentially win the game with .6 seconds left. Both shots from the line rimmed out, and the score remained knotted at 49 a piece with overtime approaching.

Coach Breslaw sent out the starters with Julian Watson replacing Jonathan Custodio. After a couple of scoreless possessions for both teams, Daniel Alexander drew a charge to spark the Rockets up again. Second chances were provided for both teams but neither could consistently convert. Combining that with more questionable calls, the teams remained deadlocked at 58 as overtime ended.

The second overtime started with the same starters as the first overtime, with Jonathan Custodio in for Nas Robinson. Several exchanged baskets throughout the lead to a tie with just seconds left, when Zaire Mitchell went to the line. He hit one of two and the Vikings brought the ball down and put the fate of the game into the hands of their top scorer, Shaq Diboti-Lobe with seconds left. Diboti-Lobe pulled the trigger from the elbow and sank the jumper with 2.3 seconds remaining, putting the Vikings on top 66-65. A fumbled inbound pass by the Rockets gave the Vikings the ball back with .9 seconds, and the game was finished with a final of 66-65 with Whitman defeating Richard Montgomery.

After the game, Julian Watson, who led the team in scoring with 13, shared some of his thoughts on the game. When asked how they were able to stick with the game through double overtime, he told The Tide, “Prior to the game, we all knew it was going to be a dogfight. [Whitman] has always been a solid team and have played well against us so we were mentally prepared for a tough match. In terms if during the game, the biggest thing that kept us in it was our hustle. Guys like Julian [Stover] and Jonathan Custodio diving for loose balls and Tolu whose mentality was to crush. We all shared the ball without really thinking  about it which helped us out. We just trusted each other.”

Watson also spoke in how the team reacted and learned from this game. “It was just an eye opener. It showed us that games like this against solid teams can come down to the wire and we can come out losing. It reminded us that payoff games will be very similar, and that if we seriously want to go as far as we’ve talked about, then we’ll have to capitalize on these opportunities to prove ourselves.”

The Rockets look to bounce back from this devastating loss tomorrow night at Springbrook.