The Washington Post

History is just out of Hornets’ grasp


Joey Lutz dribbled away the final seconds of the first half, unaware of the time left on the clock. The Damascus senior guard heard the Xfinity Center buzzer announce the end of the first half and bring a dismal second quarter to a merciful end.

The Hornets went scoreless for nearly six minutes to start the frame and scored just five points in the quarter. They were down 15 to City College at intermissi­on, a deficit that proved too steep in a 67-54 loss Thursday night in Maryland 3A boys’ state final.

The Hornets’ second quarter was a stark departure from their first, when they put up 21 points and trailed by just one. Lutz made four threes in the opening period and had 14 points. But he wouldn’t score again.

“City did a really good job of knowing where I was at all times,” Lutz said. “Credit to them. They stepped it up defensivel­y after that first quarter.”

Damascus (25-3), which was playing for a state title for the first time since 1949, came into the season with a senior-dominated team bent on making school history. The Hornets’ top six scorers are seniors.

One of them, star guard Peter Mangan, sprained his ankle and tore ligaments during a late October preseason tournament but rejoined the lineup just before the team’s season opener. He was limited to begin the season and sat out the team’s holiday tournament but was at full strength by midJanuary.

Damascus buzzed through its schedule, starting the season with 21 straight wins. But its lull came at the worst time — right before the playoffs.

The Hornets suffered their first loss in the regular season finale, an overtime defeat to Walter Johnson. Their next game, the Montgomery County final, was set to hit extra time as well before Churchill hit a buzzer-beating three. Damascus, a team that hadn’t lost all season, suddenly found itself on a two-game losing streak as it hit a critical juncture.

The Churchill loss also cost Coach Brian Humphrey’s squad its second-leading scorer, senior forward Conor Shiflett, to a season-ending injury.

But Damascus regrouped, beating Rockville, Magruder and Decatur before a matchup with undefeated Frederick in the state semifinal. The Hornets’ losses forced them to play on the road, but it didn’t matter — they held on for a three-point win to advance to the program’s first title game in 74 years.

The accomplish­ment brought with it an unexpected blessing. Damascus knew when its last practice would be.

Following the loss, they did so again in the locker room as words mixed with tears.

“We put our souls into it. We couldn’t have worked any harder for it,” Mangan said. “. . . We enjoyed every moment of it, and we shouldn’t have any regrets looking back.”

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