After the way Boys' Latin lost on Thursday, surrendering a six-point lead with less than a minute to play, a letdown seemed likely, considering the Warriors faced another game Friday night, against a Penn Wood program that had advanced to, at least, the PIAA state semifinals in each of the last three seasons.
But no one told that to Maurice Watson Jr.
Watson Jr. led all players with 25 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, to give Boys' Latin an affirming, 61-57, nonleague victory over Penn Wood.
Watson, a Boston University signee, went 10 for 17 from the field, including 19 second-half points, and added six rebounds and a couple of assists. He began slowly, but attacked the hoop at will in the third and fourth quarters, battled for offensive rebounds, and generally took over the game.
No bucket was bigger than a floater in the lane with 21.6 seconds remaining to put the Warriors (3-1) up by 59-57.
Penn Wood's Malcolm Richardson had a look at a would-be game-winning three-pointer, which clanged off the rim. After a second-chance putback missed, Boys' Latin took a loose-ball foul and a trip to the foul line. Jamar Brisbon sank two free throws to ice it.
After the Warriors fell, 58-56, at Constitution the day before, the win over Penn Wood proved not only Boys' Latin's resiliency, but also that it belongs in the Public League's super division in the realigned league. The Public League aligns divisions based on program success rather than enrollment size.
"It's important for the guys and their morale," Warriors coach Maurice Watson Sr. said. "They've battled all this year wondering if we were ready for this."
Watson Sr. said that it has been difficult to get top-tier competition to commit to nonleague games with the upstart charter. But against Penn Wood - though in a clear rebuilding year after losing its two best players, including the school's No. 2 all-time scorer, Aaron Brown - Boys' Latin had an opportunity to announce itself.
"These guys need to feel a sense of entitlement, that they belong in this powerhouse division," Watson Sr. said.
The two teams battled to a 27-27 tie at halftime. Carlos Taylor, a UMass-Lowell recruit, paced the Warriors early, dropping 14 points in the half. He finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks but sat out the game's final defensive stop with a cramp in his right calf.
"I couldn't watch it. Too tense, too tense for me to be sitting on the bench," Taylor said.
Richardson led the Patriots (2-1) with 20 points and six rebounds. Penn Wood had opened the season with wins over two other Public League teams, Bartram and Prep Charter, averaging 76 points.
"I think down the stretch they wanted it a little more than we did. Well, Maurice did," Patriots coach Clyde Jones said. "He got every loose ball. He even got offensive boards for them."
Boys' Latin 16 11 20 14 – 61
Penn Wood 12 15 13 17 – 57
BL: Carlos Taylor 17, Rashon Wooten Miller 5, Khadifi Robinson 2, Yahmir Greenlee 6, Maurice Watson 25, Eric Lark 2, Jamar Brisbon 4.
PW: Dahmere Mincey 6, Quardir Sewell 13, Tyree Bynum 11, Jerry Price 2, Malcolm Richardson 20, Corey Foster 3, Alimamy Sesay 2.