Earning a major accomplishment for the first time rarely comes easy, and such was the case for Tuscarora High School’s first boys basketball region championship and berth in the state semifinals.
Linganore led for most of Saturday’s 3A West Region championship game, but could not deliver a knockout blow. In the fourth quarter the Titans rallied for a 64-58 victory before a sold out, standing-room-only Tuscarora gym. It was the school’s first boys basketball region championship since it opened in 2003.
Up next for the Titans (20-4) is a 5 p.m. Thursday state semifinal game at the University of Maryland, College Park’s Comcast Center against 3A North champion Patterson (19-7). The Baltimore school is led by guard Aquille Carr, nicknamed Crimestopper because when he plays crime in Baltimore comes to a halt as everyone in the neighborhood shows up to watch him.
It appeared Linganore might have landed the knockout blow it was looking for with 5 minutes, 58 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Clay Conner made a 3-pointer to give the Lancers a 49-43 lead.
“But then they come right down and [Zach] Woodward came back with a 3,” Linganore coach Tom Kraft said.
After a Linganore layup, the Titans scored five consecutive points to tie the game 51-51 on Lamell Washington’s 5-footer inside the lane. Once again Linganore (17-7) responded, taking a 56-53 lead with 3:15 to play.
That’s when Tuscarora point guard Jaylen White took command. After a Bobby Ingram 3-pointer, the senior stole the ball and hit Washington for a dunk and a 58-56 lead. Washington was fouled on the play, but missed the free throw.
“That dunk was electrifying,” Washington said. “Jaylen White gave me a great pass, I slammed it home and got the crowd into it.”
For the next 92 seconds White slowed the game down and let the clock run. When Linganore finally took possession, White made another steal and went the length of the court for an open layup and a 60-56 lead.
The Titans made 4 of 6 free throws to clinch the victory and 3A West Region crown.
“I felt that I needed to be aggressive,” said White, who scored 15 of his points in the second half. “Starting the fourth quarter, we knew we needed to make a run, so we turned it up on defense. We started playing the lanes, got some steals, and that was the difference.”
White said it was the best game of his life. His coach, however, wasn’t quick to agree. After being told of White’s assertion, he started to shake his head no and say something, then hesitated.
“In terms of magnitude, yeah, it’s his best game,” Pat Cook said. “Jaylen’s a senior, and he’s been in this program for four years, and he’s been dying for this moment.”
For Linganore it was a tough loss. Kraft said he’ll especially miss this year’s senior class.
“I can’t think of a single word to describe how much this hurts right now,” he said. “The reason it hurts so much, is because it hurts for them. Luke [Jackson], Juan [Retana], Tommy [James], Jake [Giangiuli], Keith [Kleutz], Jalen [Gee] ... we had some very special seniors this year. There’s tons of tears in that locker room right now.”
Tuscarora 64, Linganore 58
Linganore 14 16 14 14 — 58
Tuscarora 14 11 13 26 — 64
Linganore (17-7): Luke Jackson 17, Jalen Gee 15, Clay Conner 11, Keith Kleutz 11, Juan Retana 2, Tommy James 2.
Tuscarora (20-4): Jaylen White 25, Zach Woodward 13, Bobby Ingram 9, Lamell Washington 9, Kwa McDonald 4, Marcus Anderson 2, Kevin Abernathy 2.