It doesn’t take much to change the outcome of a championship game: one less turnover here, a made free throw there, just a little more to the right on a long range jump shot, any of that can change a game instantly. Just ask Quinn Cook.

The star senior guard for Oak Hill Academy saw his three-pointer just miss its target at the end of regulation, eventually sending him and his team into a double overtime duel with Montrose Christian in the championship game of the ESPN Rise National High School Invitational Tournament on April 2.

It seemed like Cook, the All-Met Player of the Year in 2010 for DeMatha, of Hyattsville, Md., who transferred to Oak Hill, would close his prep career in star-studded fashion. But a few bounces of the ball allowed Montrose to steal the ESPN-televised spotlight right out from under him with a 71-64 victory in front of a packed crowd at Georgetown Preparatory School’s Hanley Center in North Bethesda, Md.

The Montrose Christian Mustangs (25-1), from Rockville, Md., had the fans’ support, but neither team seemed to gain momentum early. The third game of the three-day tourney saw a sluggish start from both schools but as the game wore on, Montrose sharpened their execution.

“We’ve been there before,” Montrose coach Stu Vetter said. “We’ve won overtime games all year and we’re prepared for overtime games. We work on situation drills every day: overtime situations last-minute situations. It’s just a matter of executing.”

It wasn’t the first time this season that Montrose and the Oak Hill Warriors from Mouth of Wilson, Va. had battled to a classic finish. A double-overtime duel earlier in the season also ended in a Montrose victory, 70-62. The two schools have shared some intense tussles over the past few seasons. “We’ve had so many great games with Oak Hill over the years,” Vetter said.

Oak Hill (29-4), the fifth-ranked team in the nation, led Montrose, the third-ranked school, 52-48 with 38.8 seconds left in regulation, but Montrose senior guard Tyrone Johnson, a Villanova recruit, scored the last four points of the quarter to tie it before Cook’s shot in the waning seconds fell slightly to the left of the rim. In the first overtime, Oak Hill led again late, up 62-59 with 16.5 seconds left, but Montrose would again tie the game. Junior forward Justin Anderson, a Maryland recruit, darted to the three-point line and then launched a shot that barely grazed a defender’s hands before it fell through the net to force a second overtime.

“That’s the biggest shot of my life,” Anderson said after the game. “The ball actually rubbed off his hand and I think that helped me.”

“It’s tough when that happens,” Oak Hill coach Steve Smith said about Montrose’s tying the game twice with his team leading. “It happened at the end of regulation and it happened again. When they came to the bench I could tell they were walking with their heads down. I had to try to pick them back up and get them to play but we just couldn’t muster up enough plays in the second overtime to get it done.”

Montrose senior guard Tyler Hubbard broke a 62-62 tie in the double overtime with a three-pointer and Johnson, 19 points after halftime and nine points in the final two overtimes, continued to make plays as Montrose pulled it out. Johnson, the tournament’s MVP, was critical down the stretch for Montrose but it was Hubbard’s long-distance shot that finally gave Montrose some breathing room. The finish was fitting for Hubbard, who had played well for most of the tournament but went scoreless through five periods of play in the championship game before finally landing a basket.

“Every shooter has a bad night,” Hubbard said. “Coach, staff and my teammates told me to keep shooting and I knew it was my time.”

As Montrose celebrated, Oak Hill’s Cook consoled a few of his teammates. The former DeMatha standout had been through much in the past week, playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game on March 31 in Chicago before traveling back to Maryland for the start of the tourney on April 1.

Four consecutive days of basketball and two extra overtimes perhaps left the Duke commit a little fatigued. But the 6-foot, 1-inch guard couldn’t find the strength to find self pity when asked about his hectic schedule.

“I just wasn’t hitting shots,” Cook said. “I’m obviously tired, I haven’t had a break but there’s no excuses. They won, we lost.”

Game Notes: Cook led all scorers with 25 points and junior forward Jordan Adams scored 18 for Oak Hill. Johnson led Montrose with 21 points and junior forwards Anderson and Michael Carrera combined for 35 points, 24 rebounds and three blocks.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO