August 8, 2022

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Northwood Coach Mike Fitzpatrick feared this mistake would prevent his team from picking up its...

Northwood Coach Mike Fitzpatrick feared this mistake would prevent his team from picking up its first win all season. Poolesville Coach BJ DeBuchananne, whose program endured a 40-game losing streak in recent years, wanted to maintain momentum in what had been, to this point, an encouraging campaign.

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After the clock issue was sorted out and the teams played the final 11 seconds, Fitzpatrick felt relief as he watched his victorious Northwood players jump around the court after a 34-31 victory.

“They had all the reasons not to show up, and give up on our season, given our record and all the adversity we’ve had,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was so happy for them.”

Northwood (1-17) hadn’t won a game since January 2020 — against Poolesville. Fitzpatrick took over the program later that year, but the Gladiators graduated their experienced seniors after the coronavirus caused the cancellation of Montgomery County’s 2020-21 season.

During the pandemic, players trained at any outdoor court in Silver Spring where the rims hadn’t been removed. They faced off-court challenges, too. Some players have endured food insecurity, while some have missed practices to supervise younger siblings while their parents work.

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This winter, some players left Northwood’s team. Others maintained belief the victories would arrive, even as they lost to the county’s top contenders by 30 points. They thought Friday was their best chance, even as they entered Poolesville High 20 minutes late because of traffic and warmed up for only 10 minutes.

“We’ve had some issues over the season, but the ones who are here right now, that’s who we put our trust in,” junior guard Yves Hyppolite said. “That’s family.”

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Poolesville, meanwhile, knows both the gloom of losing and the hope of something better.

The Falcons (8-8) are enjoying their best season in the past few years. Entering this season, they had not won a game since December 2018.

DeBuchananne moved from Northwest, one of the county’s best programs, in 2020. Poolesville is the smallest school in Montgomery County, but DeBuchananne took pride in his new job. He graduated from Poolesville in 2000 and lives in the small town with his family. The Falcons used a late spurt to win their season opener over Wheaton in December, ending that 40-game slide.

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“I had friends tell me, ‘If you win five games this year, you’d have to be excited about that,’ ” DeBuchananne said. “In my head, I was kind of like, ‘Well, if we win five games, I’m going to be disappointed because I’m competitive and I want to win.’ ”

On Friday, Poolesville led 20-9 at halftime. But with 1:42 remaining, Hyppolite’s layup provided the Gladiators their first lead at 31-29.

Northwood has surrendered fourth-quarter leads twice this season, and Poolesville came within two points after sinking a jump shot on the play that spurred a scoreboard controversy. After the pause, Northwood guard James Pitts sunk a free throw, and Hyppolite’s steal with 4.4 seconds to play provided a joy players had not felt in more than two years.

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As Northwood’s girls’ basketball players stormed the court, Pitts waved to Poolesville’s student section. Northwood’s confidence boost may have arrived late — it has just two regular season games remaining — but its players will remember Friday as a highlight of their high school days.

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“Now we know what a win feels like,” Pitts said. “Now we’re going to be scary.”


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