If you hang around basketball gyms long enough, at some point, you’ll have someone tell you that basketball is a game of inches. It’s usually a throwaway line, yet there’s a reason for its existence.
Inside the gym at Colgan High School on Friday night, the cliche came to life when, after cutting Colgan’s double-digit lead to three points, Potomac junior Anthony Jackson saw his wide-open three-pointer land an inch too far to the left as the buzzer sounded.
Colgan’s side of the gym erupted in joy, realizing the upset victory was official. Potomac fans sat with their heads in their hands. Jackson stayed in the spot in which he had just shot, eventually falling to the floor in disbelief.
Basketball is a game of inches, and this time around it measured out to a 62–59 victory for the Colgan Sharks. The win was Sharks' first ever over Potomac in the school's four-year history. The loss was Potomac's first in the Cardinal District this season.
Despite the dramatic finish, Colgan deserved the victory, having dominated for three full quarters.
Behind 47 combined points from Ta’zir Smith (28) and Noah Wheatley (19), the Sharks led 15–8 after one, 32–19 at halftime, and then 44–31 after the third quarter. They were on the floor for every loose ball, gambling correctly in passing lanes, and crashing the boards with underdog rigor. Basically, the Sharks did all the little stuff to earn their lead, knowing full-well it was necessary against a bigger, deeper Potomac team.
With eight minutes remaining and every second precious, it was as if Potomac, which outscored Colgan 28-18 in the fourth quarter, flipped a switch before taking the floor for the final quarter.
They started taking better shots and getting valuable deflections, building confidence each step of the way. They chipped away at the lead, getting as close as 57–56 with 45 seconds remaining, but Colgan didn’t waver with their backs against the wall. The Sharks knocked down free throw after free throw to stay in control.
Ahead 61–59 with 3.9 seconds remaining, Smith was intentionally fouled by a Potomac defender, setting up a chance to put the game on ice with two makes. Up to that point, Smith had made all 14 of his attempts from the charity stripe. Colgan was 22 of 26 from the free-throw line for the game and shot 53 percent from the field (18 of 34).
His first try went up…and rimmed out. His second try was on the money, leaving Potomac 3.9 seconds to inbound the ball, take it the length of the court and knock down a three-pointer to force overtime.
Like a kick returner, Potomac sophomore Kyle Honore weaved through defenders with the ball as time ticked off the clock. Inexplicably, Jackson, who had already made five three-pointers in the game, was open and Honore found him, setting up the game-tying shot that wasn’t.
Although he didn’t make the buzzer-beater, Jackson was the only double-digit scorer for Potomac, finishing with 17 points.
“Everyone knows Potomac is the gold standard in Prince William County,” Colgan head coach Jason John said after his team’s exhausting victory. “But our kids just did a great job of containing their scorers and we held on.”
“Our kids were excited to play [Potomac] and they showed up to compete,” he added. “I’m really proud of them because they did a heck of a job.”
Colgan improved to 7–6 overall and 1-2 in the Cardinal District with the victory over Potomac, while the Panthers moved to 9–3 and 3-1 on the season with the loss.
Colgan 62, Potomac 59
Jackson (5 FG, 2–2 FT) 17 pts, Harris (3 FG, 2–2) 9 pts, Rainey (2 FG, 3–5 FT) 8 pts, Honore (2 FG, 2–2 FT) 8 pts, Hall (3 FG, 0–2 FT) 6 pts, Satchell (2 FG, 1–2 FT) 5 pts, Wright (1 FG, 0–0 FT) 2 pts, White (1 FG, 0–0 FT) 2 pts, Lamarre (1 FG, 0–0 FT) 2 pts, Sims (0 FG, 0–0 FT) 0 pts, Watson (0 FG, 0–0 FT) 0 pts. Totals: 20 FG, 10–15 FT, 59 points
Smith (6 FG, 15–16 FT) 28 pts, Wheatley (6 FG, 4–4 FT) 19 pts, Howe (2 FG, 3–6 FT) 7 pts, Chandler (3 FG, 0–0 FT) 6 pts, Penn (1 FG, 0–0 FT) 2 pts, Griffin (0 FG, 0–0 FT) 0 pts, Alouane (0 FG, 0–0 FT) 0 pts, Gulley (0 FG, 0–0 FT) 0 pts, Brown (0 FG, 0–0 FT) 0 pts, Eppley (0 FG, 0–0 FT) 0 pts. Totals: 18 FG, 22–26 FT, 62 points
Halftime: Colgan 32, Potomac 19
3PT: Potomac 9 (Jackson 5, Honore 2, Harris, Rainey), Colgan 4 (Wheatley 3, Smith)