The two Liberty District boys basketball semifinal games came down to the wire Wednesday night at South Lakes High, as each contest hinged on the final possession of regulation. No. 2 Marshall defeated No. 3 Fairfax in overtime, 63-55, before No. 4 McLean upended No. 1 Langley, 45-43, to set up a championship game between Marshall and McLean Friday at 8 p.m.
Marshall trailed Fairfax, 46-38, with four and a half minutes to play before going on a 13-5 run that left the game tied 51-51 as the final seconds of regulation ticked down. Fairfax senior guard John Robic stole the ball at mid-court with four seconds left and tore down the court on a fastbreak, but Marshall senior Doug Turpin ran him down from behind and blocked the ensuing layup to send the game into overtime. Marshall senior Grant Leibow scored six of his 16 points in the extra 5-minute session to seal the outcome.
The comeback marked the second straight game in which the Statesmen stormed back from a fourth quarter deficit, as they trailed Madison by eight points early in the final frame the night before.
“The guys don’t panic,” Marshall coach Dan Hale said. “They just execute and do the things that we work on every day in practice. By now we all have confidence that we can just keep doing what we do.”
Senior guard Connor Barrand led Marshall with 18 points, but perhaps his most crucial contributions came on defense. Barrand, named to the district’s All-Defensive Team, was assigned to guard Fairfax’s leading scorer, Zack Burnett, in a box-and-one late in the fourth quarter. Burnett came away with a game-high 19 points, but he struggled to find open looks late in the game and was held scoreless in the overtime session.
Marshall’s record improved to 16-7, 10-5, their most wins since 2006.
“It’s a big turnaround,” said Barrand, wearing his team’s signature ‘Doormat to Contender’ T-shirt. “We’ve always been fighting, but this year we’ve gotten a lot of leadership from the seniors, and all throughout our program, the freshmen team, the JV team, everyone’s looking very good. I feel like we’re just starting a new trend here at Marshall. The program’s getting much better, and I feel like we’re setting the tone with this varsity season.”
Langley led McLean for much of the second game until the Highlanders grabbed their first lead with two minutes to go in the third quarter. From there the contest swung back and forth in a manner fitting the heated rivalry between the two teams, whose two regular season games this season both went into overtime.
Heading into the final seconds, it appeared Wednesday night’s game was also destined for an extra session. McLean senior Samer Abdelmoty missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 9.6 seconds left, prompting Langley to push the ball down-court trailing 45-43. Langley junior Garrett Collier’s 15-foot baseline buzzer beater bounced off the back iron, sending the McLean student section rushing onto the court in a frenzy.
McLean held the Saxons to nine fourth quarter points, continuing a recent string of excellent second half performances on the defensive end. The Highlanders trailed Stone Bridge 28-18 in the previous night’s quarterfinal game before limiting the Bulldogs to just 13 points in the second half.
McLean senior center John Pascoe scored a game-high 26 points, including 11 for 14 shooting from the free throw line.
“I’ve watched every Langley game since I was in third grade,” Pascoe said. “I just remember year after year, just losing to them. That feeling my brother had when he came home. He’s in the Marine Corps, stationed in California; I talk to him all the time. He said go get this one for me. And I just thought about him all day.”
Officials announced the All-Liberty District teams Wednesday night. Burnett was named Player of the Year, while Pascoe, Langley senior Brad Dotson, South Lakes sophomore Brandon Kamga, Stone Bridge sophomore Jason Jolly and Marshall senior Towner Hale were named to the First Team. The Second Team consisted of Madison senior Patrick Murphy, Langley senior Justin Galiani, Fairfax senior John Robic, Madison senior Phillip Davine and Marshall senior Grant Leibow. Jefferson senior Migdam Gebril was named the Defensive Player of the Year.