ROCKVILLE – On a night where his team’s jump shots seemingly refused to fall, Justin Anderson wound up right next to the basket at the perfect time.
The Montrose Christian junior swingman tipped in teammate Yuki Togashi’s miss as time expired to give the undefeated Mustangs a 44-42 victory over visiting T.C. Williams on Saturday.
“As soon as I saw Yuki drive, I knew I had one responsibility, and that was to crash,” Anderson said. “Normally, when somebody’s crashing at the last second, everybody turns their back and they’re looking at the rim trying to find out if it goes in or not. But I had one responsibility to get there and try to tip it in and I got there, and luckily it went in.”
Anderson’s bucket helped the Mustangs (17-0) survive a rare scare. Montrose – which was coming off a 70-62, double overtime victory over Oak Hill on Wednesday – came into Saturday’s game ranked No. 1 in the metro area by the Washington Post and, as well as No. 5 and No. 7 by USA Today and ESPN, respectively.
“Every team we play around here is always going to come at us,” Montrose senior guard Tyrone Johnson said. “We’ve got a big target on our back, you know, and there’s a lot of teams that are going to want to come after us. They brung their crowd, and they were hyped, you know what I’m saying? I know that we came from playing a tough Oak Hill team and some guys were sick and some were a little tired, but we just grinded it out.”
With 22 second remaining in the game, the Titans’ Tyrell Sitton tied the game at 42-42 on a deep jumper with his right foot just touching the 3-point line. The Mustangs then worked the ball up the floor to set up the final possession and Anderson’s heroics.
“It was a great game by both teams,” T.C. Williams coach Julian King said. “Yes, I’m a little stunned by the outcome, just because I expected an explanation of whether that was a 2 or a 3 by Terrell Sitton, and didn’t get one and they allowed the game to keep playing on. I tried to call a timeout, but couldn’t get a referee to hear me or see me, and they went down the other end and they made a play and then they scored. It’s a little disheartening to my kids, who played their butt off – just as everybody else did – but, hey, that’s what happens in basketball.”
Junior forward Michael Carrera scored a game-high 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Montrose (17-0) and his work inside helped to counter an off shooting night for the Mustangs. The Villanova-bound Johnson scored 13 points, while Anderson added eight.
“Honestly, I can’t find a reason why no jumpers were falling,” Anderson said. “We were all here at least four hours before game time getting shots up. I think I was in the gym shooting for about an hour before the game, and they just wouldn’t fall for me, you know? Sometimes it’s like that – sometimes you’re going to have games where you don’t miss, and sometimes you’re going to have games where you miss and you’ve just got to pound it inside. Michael did a heck of a job catching it and going up and finishing strong.”
Montrose led 13-10 after one quarter, and expanded its lead to 23-18 at halftime. T.C. Williams (15-5) rallied back in the third quarter, and took its second lead of the game at 30-29 on a bucket by T.J. Huggins with 2:06 remaining. The Mustangs responded with a 6-0 run, though, and held a 35-30 edge entering the final quarter.
A jumper by T.C. Williams’ Jordan Boyd put the Titans up 38-37 with 3:57 remaining, but Johnson scored with 3:30 remaining to put Montrose back ahead by one point.
After Sitton’s jumper tied the game, the Mustangs inbounded to Johnson, who pushed the ball up the floor before pausing in front of the Montrose bench. Johnson – who was being defended by Sitton – made his move towards the hoop with around 10 seconds remaining, but lost control of the ball. He got it to Togashi with five seconds to go, and Togashi drove into the paint and put up a right-handed floater. The ball bounced off the right side of the rim, but Anderson tipped it in with his right hand with 1.2 seconds remaining, and the ball rolled around the iron and fell through as the buzzer sounded and the Montrose crowd erupted.
“It was fooling with me a little bit when I saw it rolling around on the rim,” Anderson joked, “and then it was like, ‘Get in there baby, get in there!’ It fell and we got the game.”
Sitton scored 11 points to lead T.C. Williams, while Senior center Ryan Mathews added nine.
King said Saturday’s non-district clash served as a great test for his team, adding it should give his squad a confidence boost knowing that it can play with a team of Montrose’s pedigree.
“They have a great talent underneath the basket,” King said, “and my kids are – as you can see – a little undersized there. But they did a great job – the best they could do. If we carry that over, we’ll be fine over in our area.”
Sitton 11, Mathews 9, Byrd 8, Driver 6, Huggins 4, Kerman 2, Moss 2.
Carrera 16, Johnson 13, Anderson 8, Blossom 4, Hubbard 3.
T.C. Williams 10 8 12 12 – 42
Montrose Christian 13 10 12 9 – 44
3-Point Goals— W 1 (Sitton), MC 1 (Hubbard). Totals Fouls: W 12, MC 10. Fouled Out— None.