In early January, the Northeast and Chesapeake boys basketball teams produced a thriller in the first leg of their home-and-home when Jaylin Albury’s buzzer-beater lifted the Eagles to a last-second win on the road.
In the rematch, the Cougars were the ones celebrating a nail-biting win on their rivals’ home court.
Powered by the rare statistical feat of a triple-double by center Alonzo Wilkes — who piled up 15 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks — the Cougars overcame a 12-point, second-half deficit to prevail in overtime, 61-58, in a hotly contested matchup in front of a packed house at Northeast High School on February 8.
Russell Tongue’s 23 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals; Dylan Young’s 10 points and 7 assists; key overtime points by Kareem Francis and clutch free-throw shooting by Reed Rebstock helped push Chesapeake past their rivals and improve to 7-12 on the year.
No one had a bigger impact than Wilkes, the 6-foot-5 junior who was in the middle of every play on both ends of the floor.
“It feels good. Last time I didn’t play good, so this time I knew I had to step up and make the plays,” said Wilkes, who also had 2 assists and 2 steals. “We were thinking about last game and how we went down 17-0, and we were saying we can’t let that happen again, so we had to come out and win.”
Though Chesapeake sought to avoid an early hole, the Eagles initially did in the rematch much of what they did in the first meeting. Eight first-quarter points by Brennen Volkman and a 3-pointer by Brandon LeBarron helped get Northeast out to a 15-6 lead early as the Eagles employed a full-court press to disrupt Chesapeake’s flow on the offensive end. Volkmann finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds, and LeBarron also scored 12.
“We came out aggressive. We sped ‘em up, and they were dealing with our press and not finishing, so we were getting what we wanted out of that,” said Northeast coach Roger O’Dea.
Albury scored 6 points in the first quarter and 10 of his game-high 27 in the second, finishing on array of drives, scoop shots and mid-range pull-ups as Northeast maintained a 33-25 lead heading into the halftime break.
A bucket by Keishon Thomas gave Northeast its biggest lead of the night early in the third quarter, when they led Chesapeake 41-29. Thomas had 4 points and 5 rebounds.
Playing in a rowdy Friday night environment and shooting at the end of the floor where Northeast’s students were seated, the Cougars began chipping away at the lead.
Tongue slashed to the hoop for a pair of buckets, Wilkes scored on an offensive rebound, and Tongue closed the quarter with a 3 from the corner, the Northeast students in his ear, to end the period on a 9-0 Chesapeake run with Northeast leading 41-38.
After a rebound and layup by Tongue and another basket by Wilkes, Chesapeake had its first lead of the game at 44-43 with 3:48 left in the game.
Out of a time out, Northeast executed an alley-oop play with Trent McNeill lofting a pass to Thomas, but Thomas’ tomahawk dunk attempt rattled out — the play would have given Northeast a one-point lead and brought the house down.
Instead, Tongue hit his third 3-pointer of the game to put his side up 47-43 with just over two minutes remaining.
Tongue said the Cougars were unfazed by the loud cheering of the Northeast’s students.
“It feels like everything’s against you, and you just block it all out so it sounds like you’re playing against crickets,” Tongue said. “We had to ball out.”
LeBarron drained a corner 3-pointer to regain the lead for his side at 48-47, but Wilkes corralled a miss by Rebstock and scored to make it 49-48. Chesapeake stretched its lead to 50-48 with a free throw, and the teams traded fouls in a disjointed sequence over the last 17 seconds that saw Albury and LeBarron go a combined 2-of-4 from the free throw line to tie the game at 50-50 and send the game to overtime.
In the extra frame, Francis came up big for Chesapeake, scoring on a drive, drawing a charge and making two free throws. Young hit a big 3 to give Chesapeake a 57-53 lead, and Rebstock made four free throws in a row to keep the Eagles at bay. Baskets by McNeill and Albury drew Northeast to within three by the closing seconds, but the Eagles couldn’t get a clean look for a tying 3, and Chesapeake won 61-58.
Albury finished with a game-high 27 points to go with 8 steals, 6 assists and 5 rebounds.
Chesapeake coach Shawn Rebstock spoke proudly of the Cougars’ turnaround after trailing by double digits in the second half.
“These players, both sides, played their hearts out tonight, and that’s what you get,” said Rebstock. “Our kids responded. Tough environment to play, we went down early, couldn’t buy a bucket early in the game, but they battled back. They’ve done it all year long. I’m really proud of these guys.”
O’Dea knows his squad can beat the Cougars — after all, they did it in January — but said the rivalry doesn’t care about history or discrepancies in talent or depth.
“We knew it was going to be close,” said O’Dea. “I told my players, I know we have more talent, but talent don’t matter in this game. This game’s about who’s going to have more heart, more soul, more passion, more focus. That’s what this game was about.”
The Cougars and Eagles are positioned as the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds in the 3A East Region playoffs, so a playoff rematch could happen with first-round victories over likely 1 and 2 seeds J.M. Bennett and Stephen Decatur.
Rebstock was happy to see the Cougars’ effort deliver a win, particularly after recent overtime losses to Southern and Glen Burnie.
“These kids just battle every night,” Rebstock said. “They give me everything they have.”
Wilkes’ Star Rising
Rebstock said Wilkes has averaged a double-double in the new year, and he spoke highly of the junior’s work ethic and his success in recent weeks.
“[Alonzo] is just one of the best kids I’ve been around,” said Rebstock. “I’ve been fortunate enough to coach a lot of sports, and the last six weeks, something has clicked with Alonzo. It just shows, when he wants to like he has the past six weeks, he can really dominate a basketball game. I can’t be happier for him because he’s such a great kid.”
The game featured at least two regrettable incidents. A Chesapeake student was removed from the game for throwing a bottle cap in the direction of the Northeast bench. Play was temporarily stopped as police escorted the student out of the game.
Students from both schools were removed from the game for separate instances of unsportsmanlike behavior.
In the handshake line after the game, there was a brief pushing altercation involving a Chesapeake player and a member of the Northeast coaching staff. The altercation was quickly broken up.