During the second quarter, while the Highlanders were on a run and building an impressive lead over undefeated Skyline, Howell’s Johnny Shields did something that was, well, not advisable. After Howell took a surprising six-point lead in this Regional semifinal at Salem HS, the senior raucously clapped his hands in the direction of Skyline’s Brandon Wade as the senior guard was bringing the ball up the court.
Son, that was a mistake. A really big mistake.
Message received, noted, and unfortunately for Howell, responded to by Mr. Wade. And don’t think Brandon Wade didn’t notice the hand claps or the loud and enthusiastic Howell cheering section because in his own subtle and respectful way he answered with his own hand clapping and his own enthusiasm as he turned this stage into a one-man performance that people will be talking about for a long time.
“When you’re feeling it, you’re feeling it,” Wade said with a huge smile after Skyline’s 73-59 win. “There is nothing better than seeing that ball go through the hoop time after time.”
Wade, a top candidate for Mr. Basketball, said there was no panicking at halftime despite an eight-point deficit against a hot-shooting Howell team.
“That’s what is special about this team,” he said. “We didn’t panic at all. We have confidence that we can play better each half, each quarter and each possession. We get better as the game moves along. We knew we would be OK if we just kept playing Skyline basketball because that’s why we are here and that’s why we’ve been successful.”
Before we add up Wade’s numbers in the third quarter, let’s set the scene and go to the play-by-play because numbers only add up to part of this amazing performance. It’s much more incredible to really experience it.
Skyline came into the game undefeated against one of the most difficult schedules in the state. Howell came into the game at 14-8 playing in a decent, but not great, basketball conference.
The Highlanders came out playing like they were the undefeated team. They made 7 of 9 three-point attempts and built a 40-32 lead over the Eagles. The Howell crowd was going nuts – and rightfully so. The Howell players were fired up – and rightfully so.
Would Skyline’s undefeated season end at Salem HS against Howell?
The answer came in 8 minutes. Roll the tape.
Wade hit a triple on his first shot of the third quarter to make it 40-35.
Wade hit his second straight three-pointer to cut the deficit to one point with 5:40 left in the third. Just 30 seconds later, his third triple gave the Eagles a 43-41 lead.
Wade then went inside and scored a layup to make it 45-41 with 4:20 left.
Jack Ammerman was knocked hard to the floor but somehow got the shot off and somehow made the shot and the free throw to make it 48-41 with 3:45 left.
Wade then scored three points the old-school way to give the Eagles a 51-41 lead with 2:41 left.
In the final seconds of the third quarter, Wade finished what he started with a three-pointer to give the Eagles a 56-43 lead.
The numbers added up to 17 points on four triples, a three-point play and a layup. He helped turn a 40-32 deficit into a 56-43 lead with a 24-3 run in 8 minutes.
Mike Lovelace has coached Brandon Wade for four years. He’s seen him play around 100 times in high school and has witnessed his star guard put on some incredible performances. But Monday night was an Oscar, Tony, Grammy and ESPY all rolled into one – you could simply call it a “Brandon.”
“That was a really powerful one,” Lovelace said. “I’ve been fortunate to see it in different amounts but that was like ‘I’m going to make sure I put this out of reach.’ He wasn’t just trying to get us the lead, he was trying to put it out of reach.”
Mission accomplished. He put the game so far out of reach that the fourth quarter was simply an afterthought. This game was over after three quarters and Wade accomplished that in one quarter.
To future opponents of the Skyline Eagles: If you get a lead, put your hands in your pockets or better yet get them up in the air and try to defend Brandon Wade instead of firing him up.