During pregame warmups inside the Comcast Center, Largo High School's Derrick Colter pulled aside assistant coach Terrance Carter and asked for his help.
While the rest of the Lions shot around and ran through their layup lines prior to Friday night's Maryland 2A semifinal game against Easton, Colter practiced running off screens at different spots on the floor. Each time, Carter — Largo's all-time leading scorer — passed him the ball and Colter shot.
From the elbow, Colter missed four in a row. After his fifth attempt dropped through the hoop, the senior's frustrated body language relaxed. He mouthed the word, “OK.”
“Even though I missed in warm-ups, I still felt pretty good,” Colter said.
“Pretty good” is a significant understatement.
The dynamic senior point guard began Friday's game by making four consecutive 3-pointers as Largo rolled into Saturday's state title game with a 61-44 victory. The Lions will play Lake Clifton at the Comcast Center at 6 p.m.
Colter finished with a game-high 26 points, 19 in the first half. He connected on one more 3-pointer — a crowd-rousing half-court shot at the third-quarter buzzer — after his first four set the tone and sprung Largo to a 14-2 lead in a game the Lions (22-4) never trailed.
“He has done a tremendous job for our program in the four years he's been here,” said Largo coach Lewis Howard, who led the Lions to a state title in 2008.
The first shot of Colter's barrage came from the top of the arc, the second from the far corner, his third from the right flank and his fourth while falling down. Easton's Shyheim Washington (13 points) closed out quickly on Colter and was in his face on the right side. Colter opted to shoot anyway and drained the shot with Washington draped all over him.
“I made the first one,” said Colter, who is averaging 28 points per game in the playoffs. “Once I make the first one, it's over. The rest are going in.”
Colter's other jaw-dropping play came with less than a minute to play in the second quarter. After Largo failed to convert three offensive putbacks in the paint, Colter collected the ball to the left of the key, saw he couldn't penetrate the lane and shot a long left-handed scoop shot while falling away from the hoop. He was fouled on the play and converted.
“He's Derrick Colter,” senior forward Michael Graham said matter-of-factly when asked how Colter was able to accomplish what he did Friday night.
Solid shooting was contagious for the Lions, who hit 50 percent of their shots from the field (25 of 50), highlighted by Graham's 9 of 11 effort en route to 18 points.
“The discipline my team showed out there was tremendous. I'm very proud of my players,” Howard said.
For a majority of the season, Howard's team was engineered to push the tempo at all times, but when the Warriors (20-5) played the entire first half in a 2-3 zone, Largo slowed things down.
Even when running the half-court offense, the Lions impressed, most notably on a set-play alley-oop from Lafayette Nelson to Graham to end the first quarter.
Easton mixed in a matchup zone and some man-to-man in the second half with mild success, but Largo's remarkable start proved insurmountable.
“With the way they started, I don't think it would have mattered what [defense] we played,” said Warriors coach Marty Bailey Jr. “They play against man a lot [in Prince George's County], so we wanted to show them something different.”
Despite a significant height advantage in the middle with 6-foot-6 center Ryan Miller complimented by 6-6 swingman Gordon Jeter and 6-5 forward Javier Michaux-Adams, the Warriors were unable to establish a consistent post presence. Coupled with Largo's rebounding advantage (31-24) and lack of fouls (eight), the outcome was decided relatively early.
Standing in the hallway outside the media room following the win, Colter was asked if his 12-points-in-3-minutes outburst was his best start to a game.
“It's average,” Colter said. “About even with others.”
A scary proposition for Lake Clifton should Colter happen to play above average Saturday night.
“I've worked every day since I was little, since I was 8, just to be on this big stage and now I'm here,” he said. “I'm not going to let anything happen.”
Maryland 2A semifinal: Largo 61, Easton 44
Largo 22 15 16 8 — 61
Easton 10 16 11 7 — 44
Largo (22-4): Derrick Colter 26, Michael Graham 18, Damante McNiell 5, Lafayette Nelson 5, Khari Sewell 4, Daemond Carter 2, John Majors 1
Easton (20-5): Shyheim Washington 13, Javier Michaux-Adams 8, Jah'Sheme Ringgold 8, Ryan Miller 7, Izone Pulley 4, Gordon Jeter 4