In 2006, a Whitman boys basketball team nobody gave much thought to upset Montgomery County power Magruder before shocking an Eleanor Roosevelt team of several Division-I prospects in the state championship game at the Comcast Center.
On Thursday, Coach Chris Lun will have his Vikings back in Comcast — one step away from another surprise Class 4A state title.
“It is similar to 2006 in that no one expected us to be there,” Lun said. “But our team always believed in themselves and we are playing our best basketball of the season at the right time.”
For Lun, it’s a bit of a trip down memory lane. Then, like now, he had a team dedicated to defense and ball movement. Whitman held Roosevelt to 38 points in the 2006 championship game, what longtime Washington Post prep sports writer Josh Barr wrote was “one of the biggest upsets in Maryland tournament history.”
Then, unlike now, Whitman also had a true star player. Senior guard Michael Gruner led Montgomery County in scoring that season with 19.9 points per game. Thanks in large part to the state title — Whitman’s first — Lun was named the Post’s boys Coach of the Year. Gruner was named to the All-Met team.
Some of the other guys on that team: Greivis Vasquez, Georgetown-bound guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright and a lanky 6-foot-8 forward named Kevin Durant.
The scoring load on this season’s team is more spread out. Josh Fried, a 6-foot-7 senior center, had 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in Whitman’s region final win against Clarksburg on Friday. Sophomore guard Kyle Depollar had 16 points and went 9-of-10 from the free throw line in the second half.
Max Steinhorn provides steady play at point guard and Adam Lowet, Ben Castagnetti and Adam Joel are “good program guys,” Lun said. Riley Shaver and Jake Kuhn also contribute in the backcourt.
“To most people, we are probably underdogs at Comcast,” Lun said.
Whitman will play Annapolis at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the first Class 4A semifinal. If Whitman advances, they’ll play the winner of the game between perennial Montgomery County power Springbrook and Henry A. Wise, the Upper Marlboro school ranked No. 3 in the area by the Post.
To get to the region final on Friday, the Vikings on Thursday had to beat division winner Blair, which beat Whitman twice in two close regular season games. The 60-48 win at Blair, a night after barely beating Richard Montgomery, came thanks to a 34-22 second-half advantage.
“It was a very good team performance. We played unselfish and made big time plays in crunch time. It was a big win for us,” Lun said.
With a trip to Comcast coming Thursday, maybe a repeat of eight years ago is in the cards.
“We are going to show up, compete hard, play like a team and see what happens,” Lun said. “I have so much belief in our guys, I’m just proud to coach them and can’t wait for Thursday.”
Photos via Alan Goodwin (@Whitprincipal) and Whitman Athletics