Varsity boys basketball ends season with loss to Madison

Highlanders come up short in regional quarterfinals

Senior Daniel Fimbres jumps in the face of a defender to take a contested shot

Madison wins, 72-56
Following their defeat at the hands of the eventual district champion Marshall Statesmen in the district semifinals, the McLean Highlanders traveled to Vienna to play against the Madison Warhawks in a do-or-die regional playoff game. The Highlanders were narrowly defeated by Madison during the regular season, losing 67-59 at home. The loss was not on the minds of McLean’s players as they entered the gym for the playoff game.

“It’s win or go home, so you just have to leave it all on the court,” junior forward Isaac Bell said. “We have to come out strong.”

McLean came into the game fully aware of what a loss would mean for the team.

“This could be our last game of the season. We have to do it for the seniors,” junior guard Caffrey Eaton said.

In the midst of an up-and-down season, McLean found themselves with a chance to be the district champions during their game against Marshall. However, the Statesmen prevailed, largely due to McLean’s inability to simply put the ball in the basket. For McLean, shooting efficiency was a top priority heading into the game.

“We’ve been struggling with [scoring] recently,” Eaton said. “We just have to do that. We know we can play defense, but we have to play offense, too.”

Despite McLean’s wishes of playing a higher-tempo offense early in the game, neither side could get into a rhythm. The most prevalent noise in the arena throughout the first quarter was the whistle of the referees, as seemingly every major moment of contact was called an offensive foul. The ball flew around the court without much control for either team, and the first quarter ended with Madison leading 11-8.

The scoring output shot up in the second quarter, as the Warhawks turned on the gas from three-point range. Seniors Joey Chalabi and Jack Kaminski took the helm of Madison’s tightly-run offense, and the Warhawks saw their lead extend as the second quarter progressed. Despite a late three from McLean sophomore shooting guard Max Mullen, who was seeing some of his most significant minutes of the season, the Highlanders couldn’t take the lead. The last shot of the first half was a three from Chalabi, and McLean trailed 35-24 entering the final half of play.

McLean came out of the intermission with a rejuvenated sense of urgency. A big run for the offense, punctuated by a block from Bell against Madison’s 6’7” center Wyatt Norton, brought the game to within three points after senior Davis Sawyer drained a three from the corner, evoking roars of support from the student section.

As quick as the momentum was there, it was gone.

At the time of Sawyer’s three, the score was 40-37 in favor of the Warhawks. By the end of the third quarter, a 13-4 run for the home team gave Madison a 53-41 lead which McLean would never fully recover from. Some added backcourt pressure and interspersed jumpshots gave McLean some energy, but it was not enough to take Madison’s foot off of the gas.

With around a minute to go, seniors Daniel Fimbres, Quinn Sullivan, Jakob Luu and Davis Sawyer were subbed off for the final time in their high school careers, to a standing ovation from students and adults in attendance. Those four, along with fellow seniors Jimmy Higgins, Matt Mondoro, Josh John, Max Warrell, and Demetrios Solomos were honored by fans with applause from their supporters in their final minutes proudly playing for McLean.

The game drew to a close, with the Warhawks defeating the Highlanders 72-56.

“Shoutout to [Jakob] and [Quinn] and [the other seniors], they fought really hard,” John said. “They kept us in it all throughout the end. We’re going to be back next year. Not me, not [us seniors], but the people younger than us. We’ll be back.”