In its first game against the Bowie High School boys’ basketball team, Suitland lost leading scorer Gerard Gray for most of the third quarter due to foul trouble, lost a lead and lost the game.
Friday night, the Rams were without Gray for much of the first half after he picked up two early fouls.
This time, however, junior Donnell Graham and the Rams stayed close. Gray sparked a third quarter run, and the Rams survived a late Bowie rally for a 68-59 upset win.
Graham scored a game-high 26 points and Gray scored nine of his 14 in the third quarter as Suitland (9-7) built a 10-point lead.
The Bulldogs (12-5) got to within one twice in the fourth quarter, but Suitland made 12-of-16 free throws in the final 3 minutes, 5 seconds to hold on.
“The difference tonight was we kept our composure,” Suitland coach George McClure said. “We were in a similar situation Tuesday with Roosevelt. We were up with 20 seconds left, we made some big mistakes and I think we learned from them.”
Graham scored 10 of his 26 points in the final eight minutes.
“He had a big, big game from the free throw line,” McClure said. “He kept his composure as well. Definitely not the same player he was in December. Tonight, even when he made a mistake or two he never panicked.”
Senior Jared Gray led Bowie with 16 points and sophomore Christian Bryant added 13.
“It’s a game [that] if we do the little things right, if we defend properly, if we rebound properly, we’re in a position to win the game,” Bowie coach Cedric Holbrook said. “If we don’t we’re in a position where things can happen and we don’t win the game.”
The rugged, anything goes first half didn’t feature a lot of called fouls, but two that were called went against Gerard Gray. With him on the bench, Bowie led by as many as five in the second quarter, but by just two at intermission.
The Bulldogs went at Gerard Gray early in the second half, but he avoided his third foul and went to work on the offensive end.
After Darryl Smith’s layup put Suitland up 38-37, Gerard Gray scored six points inside during a 12-2 Suitland run, and the Rams led by seven after three quarters.
“He’s our horse,” McClure said of Gerard Gray. “It’s been a little bit frustrating for him because he’s drawn double teams from a lot of our opponents. We just asked him to be patient and I think he’s doing a good job of that.”
Bowie’s Jared Gray scored five quick points in the fourth quarter to cut the Suitland lead to 48-46. Minutes later, with its deficit back to six, Bryant hit a 3-pointer and Dejuan Smith picked up a steal and went in for a dunk to pull Bowie to within 52-51, but he missed the ensuing free throw.
The Rams went the next four minutes without a field goal, but made enough free throws to stay close and Everett Chambers’ layup made it 61-59 Suitland with 25 seconds left.
“You have to learn how to adapt to your situation to be successful. For a small stretch of the fourth quarter we adapted,” Holbrook said.
After two Graham free throws and a Bowie miss, Suitland had possession when a foul call led to a double technical on players from each team. Bowie’s Cory Washington picked up a second technical and was ejected.
“[The referee] said that my kid said something to him,” Holbrook said. “We just have to learn how to grow from this. These last couple of games we’ve had opportunities to win. We haven’t closed out games the way we need to do to be successful.”
Suitland got five three throws (making three) and the ball, and the issue was decided.
“I thought overall we kept our heads,” McClure said of the final minutes. “It got very aggressive at the end and there were some opportunities for our kids to get frustrated.”
Bowie 21 10 10 18 — 59
Suitland 20 9 19 20 — 68
Bowie: Jared Gray 16, Christian Bryant 13, DeJuan Smith 9, Cory Washington 8, Kade Monroe 6, Everett Chambers 4, Anthony Barnes 3.
Suitland: Donnell Graham 26, Gerard Gray 14, Darrencio Daniels 10, Darryl Smith 9, Mikeil Watkins 6, Milan Nell 2, Antonio Parks 1.