The Beechcroft High School boys basketball team finally found its footing with more than enough time left in the City League championship game Feb. 17 at Africentric.
Facing an Eastmoor Academy squad that made two state tournament appearances in the past three seasons, the Cougars trailed by 14 points late in the first quarter but outscored the Warriors by 20 in the second period to gain control.
Beechcroft went on to beat Eastmoor 71-66 in its first appearance in the City title game since losing to the Warriors in 1994, capturing its first City championship since 1983.
The Cougars improved to 20-1, tying the program record for wins in a season.
“It was a little bit of nervousness with it being a sold-out crowd, and (Eastmoor) did give us something we weren’t expecting,” Cougars coach Humphrey Simmons said. “They played man defense and I thought they were going to try to slow us down, but they didn’t. They came out very aggressive and it shocked us a little bit. Once we got it together, everything happened the way we wanted it to happen.”
The hot hand of Teon Jennings helped the Cougars’ turnaround.
The senior guard had a game-high 24 points, including 17 during a second quarter in which Beechcroft outscored Eastmoor 30-10.
The Warriors, who dropped to 17-5, trailed 50-41 heading into the fourth quarter before pulling to within 56-54 with 4 minutes, 11 seconds remaining and 58-57 with 2:47 left.
A 3-pointer by Jennings increased Beechcroft’s lead to 61-57 and the Cougars made eight of nine free-throw attempts in the final two minutes.
“We got off to a good start, but (Beechcroft is) an athletic team and they did extremely well in attacking the basket,” Eastmoor coach Jim Miranda said.
Taevion Kinsey had 18 points, Tim Smith scored 16 and Randy Olverson and Tariq Brown both scored 14 for the Warriors, who made just 15 of 33 shots from the free-throw line.
Jelani Simmons added 20 points and Datrey Long scored 12 for the Cougars.
“I felt like this was going to happen since the summer because we were beating teams, but they said Eastmoor would be our biggest challenge,” Jennings said. “We didn’t come here to lose.”