The play happened so quickly, it could easily have been missed. But it showed why Bel Air sophomore guard Vernon Joines has become so valuable this season.
Bel Air was trailing by two points late in a recent game with C. Milton Wright when Joines reached out and intercepted an inbounds pass. He then drove to the basket, made a layup and got fouled. Joines made the free throw, and the three-point play gave the Bobcats the lead for good.
That play was Joines' season in microcosm. He is constantly diving for loose balls, deflecting passes, poking away dribbles - doing something that's bothering other teams.
Joines' impact on defense is why Bel Air coach Nate Weigl's doesn't care much what the sophomore contributes on offense.
"Defensively, he really gets after it," Weigl said. "He's all over the place, just getting hands on basketballs. When he's on the floor, he brings a defensive intensity and a type of swagger."
Joines moved into a starting role six games into the season. He's averaging about seven points, four rebounds and 2.5 steals per game - plus a team-high six deflections, which often lead to steals by his teammates.
"I really take pride in my defense," Joines said. "I'm going to try my hardest to stop you from making me look bad ... [and] my purpose is to make plays."
He's made a whole lot of plays this season, plays the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Joines didn't expect to have a chance to make. Joines served as the sixth man on the Bel Air junior varsity last season and was surprised when Weigl asked him to come up to the varsity this season. He was surprised even more when his playing minutes grew and Weigl eventually made him a starter.
Joines' quickness and stellar defensive play intrigued the second-year coach, who couldn't keep him off the floor.
"He's probably the hardest worker on our team in the last month and a half," Weigl said. "Defensively, he's a leader on our team, he gets our team going."
Said Joines: "I just don't give up. I keep trying hard. You've got to do what you've got to do to win."
Joines learned his work ethic from his father, also named Vernon Joines, who played football at Maryland and spent two years with the Cleveland Browns.
Encouraged by his father to play different sports, the younger Joines played varsity football for the Bobcats this past fall and is a spectacular sprinter who had a time of 11 seconds in the 100-meter dash as a freshman. In basketball, Joines played at the well-known Bentalou Rec Center in Baltimore City when he was younger, often competing against kids who were older and more talented.
During the summer, Joines will usually take 1,000-2,000 shots per day, and he also plays with players from Southwestern, where his father went to high school.
"I honestly believe my son can do anything he puts his mind to," said his father, now the boys basketball coach at Samuel Banks High in Baltimore City. "Physically, he's going to grow a couple of inches. He'll be 6-foot-3 or 6-4 and be great at wide receiver or [defensive back]. I really feel like the sky's the limit."
For this season, however, Joines is adjusting to his role. Although he has made his mark with defense, Joines scored 15 points in the victory over C. Milton Wright.
He's come a long way since the start of the season, when he wondered how much playing time he'd see at the varsity level after not starting on JV. Weigl talked with him a few times and eventually convinced Joines to stick with the varsity.
The coach had watched Joines play in a league last spring and was impressed with how much he had improved.
"I saw a ton of athletic ability," Weigl said. "I said I thought it would be a benefit to be on the varsity team [as he] would get plenty of minutes."
Said Joines: "My goal is to make the team successful and to do well in the playoffs and to just have fun. I feel I have to prove myself all the time. I want to show [that I] belong."