Ashburn, Va. (February 28, 2015) — Spoiler alert: This story ends with the Stone Bridge Bulldogs pulling off an 88-83 overtime win over Edison in the 5A North region quarterfinal in a wild scene last night in Ashburn.
In the primary subplot, senior point guard Jason Jolly deposited a school-record 50 points to propel the Bulldogs (23-2) to a miraculous comeback triumph, furthering their win streak to 23 and surviving to play again.
But how they did it still makes for a great story, even when you know how it ends.
When they were down 13 points with only four minutes to go, the Stone Bridge Bulldogs had no right winning.
When they were down 71-66 with less than 30 ticks on the clock, the Stone Bridge Bulldogs had no right winning.
But through it all, what the Stone Bridge Bulldogs did have was an undeniable collective will to persevere…and Jason Jolly.
“That is one of the best comebacks you’re going to see at any level,” said Stone Bridge head coach Corey Stitzel, in his first season piloting the Bulldogs after 13 years of collegiate coaching. “I’ve coached a long time, and I’ve watched even more, and I’ve never seen a team like this one.”
“We were dead in the water,” Stitzel went on. “These guys just refuse to lose. They persevere and fight and claw and it is an unbelievable group to coach.”
The three 3-pointers for nine points Jolly had in the first half was just a warm-up. The 5-foot-8 dynamo and his teammates ducked into the halftime locker room trailing 29-25.
Jolly was the entirety of the Bulldogs’ offense in the second half, but the Eagles (21-6) kept clawing ahead. Stone Bridge briefly took the lead midway through the third quarter, but Edison toughed out some inside points to take a 45-39 advantage into the fourth.
That’s when things looked bleakest for the Bulldogs. Edison got layup after layup while Stone Bridge went cold from the field, even Jolly. As the minutes dwindled, this reporter was scribbling the sort of interview questions asked after a disappointing loss.
Now we come to where the script gets flipped.
Edison was up five with three minutes left. Stone Bridge was in scramble mode, desperate to seize the ball back, and it was working. The Bulldogs harrassed the dribbler, snagging it away and surging down for a crowd-erupting layup – but the Eagles were granted a timeout and the two points didn’t count.
Stitzel was livid. The coach’s face seethed as he threw aside his jacket, loosened his tie and expressed vociferous disagreement, arms tightly crossed, directly at the referee. Meanwhile, a few Bulldog players crossed the court to request cheers from their booing fans, which were loudly delivered.
The place was jumping. And the good part hadn’t happened yet.
With 1:20 left, Luke Rody swished in a 3-pointer to tie it 66-66 – but that wasn’t the good part.
With 30 seconds left, Jolly rolled in a 3-pointer while simultaneously Nick Barnes was fouled, making it a four-point play to get Stone Bridge within one, just like that – but that wasn’t the good part.
With merely eight seconds to go, Jolly hit a streaking Barnes for game-tying layup, sending the Stone Bridge partisans into conniptions – but that still wasn’t the good part.
No, the good part was the four-minute overtime period, also known as The Jason Jolly Show.
For openers, Jolly stole the ball and turned it into a 3-pointer. A half-minute later, the point guard drove the lane, dishing a beautiful no-look bounce pass to Barnes for the lay-in. After that, he earned a trip to the free-throw line and sank two. After that, the little man used his quickness to haul in a defensive rebound. Then more free throws made with that perfectly repeated motion – all while visibly fighting off a leg cramp.
“Coach kept telling us, we were going to win this game if we kept playing hard,” Jolly said. “We started pressing, we got some turnovers and finished baskets. The emotion was going crazy.”
The Bulldog student section chanted “Ja-son Jol-ly” as Stone Bridge scored 11 straight to start overtime, more than the tiring Eagles could overcome.
“If he’s not the best player in the state of Virginia, it might be one of the biggest travesties in sports,” Stitzel opined, hyperbole unintended.
The final buzzer was just the signal to stage the mob scene that ends our story. Jolly and his teammates were enthusiastically pounded by their classmates, and Jolly signed a couple autographs for kids.
“Never. Never had a game like that before in my life,” said Jolly, who came out early for free-throw practice with dad Jason Sr., just in case that particular skill would prove useful. “I’d never even scored 40 before.”
Jolly’s new school mark of 50 points breaks his own record of 39, set last season. His seven 3-pointers ties a program-best. He canned 21 of 24 free throws. He even distributed nine assists and stole it away four times – a statsheet Stitzel called “video game numbers.”
Barnes had six rebounds and 14 points, including a game-opening slam. Rody had a pair of 3-pointers, as did Julian Albizo, who finished with 10 points.
The Stone Bridge Bulldogs’ fantastic season continues Monday in the regional tournament’s semifinal round. Stitzel made a point to thank the fans for helping his team – their team – survive the quarterfinal challenge.
“The support of this crowd, of this school and this community, we don’t come back if we don’t have that,” Stitzel claimed. “They got us going after we made a couple plays, and if they hadn’t helped us like that, we’re sitting here having a different conversation.”
VivaLoudoun: We Live For Loudoun™
By Jason S Rufner