Jon-David Byers, the smallest player on Westminster's boys basketball team, stood tall last night.
The 5-foot-9 junior guard scored a game-high 22 points -- including three three-pointers -- to help the No. 19 Owls upend defending Class 3A state champion Thomas Johnson, 51-41, in Westminster.
With the victory, Westminster (8-1 overall, 2-0 in the Central Maryland Conference) extended its unbeaten streak to six games and ended Thomas Johnson's 77-game winning streak against conference opponents.
The last team in the conference to defeat the Patriots? The Owls, 49-47 in overtime, on Feb. 23, 1993.
Byers scored 15 of his points in the second half and made his three-pointers from at least four feet behind the arc.
"Since I'm usually the smallest guy on the court, I've always worked on my shooting," said Byers, who also finished with nine rebounds and three steals. "Tonight, I let them fly. I never worry about how deep I am."
Both teams started slowly last night, but Thomas Johnson (6-2, 1-1), the fifth-ranked team in the state, walked into the locker room at halftime with a 24-21 lead, thanks to a layup by junior center Ron Wells (team-high 14 points) with two seconds left.
In the third quarter, the Patriots had a five-point lead on two occasions, but Westminster battled back to cut the gap to 34-32at the end of the quarter.
With less than four minutes to go and Thomas Johnson leading 37-35, senior point guard Ryan Salkeld hit a three-pointer to give the Owls a lead they would not relinquish.
"That was actually a play designed for Jon-David, but tonight they were all over Jon-David and [senior forward] Nick [Hohenwarter]," Salkeld said. "I came out of the corner and sunk it."
The Patriots scored only four more points, and Byers scored nine of the team's final 13 points to seal the upset.
Thomas Johnson played without leading scorer and rebounder Marcus West, who was suspended for the rest of the season yesterday. Coach Tom Dickman, who declined to elaborate on the dismissal, said West's absence had a noticeable impact.
"You had to see us in our previous games, and that will tell you how important he was to our team," Dickman said.