By MARCUS HELTON & KYLE MCFADDEN
SALISBURY, MD - In the nearly 40 years since he founded what became the Governor’s Challenge, legendary Wicomico High School (Md.) coach Butch Waller has seen it grow from a four-team showcase into a 120-team extravaganza that officially became the largest holiday basketball event in the country this year.
“I couldn’t put it in words,” Waller said at the close of this year’s event Saturday night. “When we started this in 1981-82 with us playing DeMatha and Crisfield playing St. John’s, I had no clue that it would ever amount to anything like this. I tell you, it’s one of the most prideful things I have in my life to see this.”
RELATED: DAY 3 NOTEBOOK
RELATED: DAY 4 NOTEBOOK
So, it seemed fitting that this year’s historic event would close with Waller and his team reveling in the marquee victory of a fantastic start to the season.
Wicomico knocked off Baltimore Catholic League member Gilman (Md.) in the DMVelite Showcase Division finale at the Wicomico Civic Center, improving to 9-0.
“It feels really great,” said WiHi 2020 guard Jaden Baker (right), who finished with a team-high 15 points. “It’s a confidence booster for us leaving the Governor’s Challenge, and now we’re just looking for our next game.”
The win completed a Governor’s Challenge sweep for the Indians, who beat West Mecklenburg (NC) in a showcase game on Thursday.
“Ever since we’ve been in this thing - which has been a long time - I’ve always wanted to play somebody that I felt was probably above us,” Waller said. “I’m not sure that our kids are always happy about that, but I said ‘The greater the challenge, the greater the reward. I mean, we just beat a really good team, and we beat West Mecklenburg the other day - which I thought was a really good team when i scouted them - and it can only help us down the road.”
Gilman led 27-23 at the half, but WiHi outscored them 17-10 in the third quarter to take the lead and never relinquished it.
“I feel like we picked it up on defense,” Baker said, “and when our defense started to click, that’s when our offense just came together.”
2018 guard Devonta Dixon finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for Wicomico, while 2018 guard Lequan Pettit had 9 points and 6 assists.
Gilman 2019 guard Jalen Rucker scored a game-high 24 points, while 2018 guard Brandon Madison added 10.
“I mean, #3 for Gilman [Rucker], that’s a D-I prospect,” Waller said. “#15 [2018 forward Ciaran Sandy] is not bad either. Just by osmosis - just by seeing those kids and playing against those kids - it’s going to help us, because I can refer to this game the rest of the regular season. So, we’re happy, and whoever would have thought little ol’ WiHI would be 9-0 going into 2018? We’re tickled to death, and we’re going to ride this horse as long as we can ride it.” (MH)
THURGOOD MARSHALL NOW 2-0 AGAINST WCAC FOES
The month of December has been a good one for the Thurgood Marshall (DC) Warriors against Washington Catholic Athletic Conference competition.
After beating Bishop Ireton (Va.) at the buzzer in the DMV Tip-Off at North Point High School back on Dec. 16, the Warriors downed Good Counsel 55-43 on Saturday morning at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.
While neither Ireton or Good Counsel is in the upper tier of the WCAC, both mark impressive wins for Thurgood, which finished second in the DC Public Charter School league last season.
“It just means that we were locked in, and that we can play with anybody we want to,” said Thurgood Marshall star 2018 guard Savion Gallion.
Gallion scored 19 of his 29 points in the second half to lead the Warriors to victory. Thurgood outscored Good Counsel 34-22 in the second half.
“The key was to get rebounds, because they were slightly bigger than us so we knew we had to box out and grab rebounds and push the ball because they were in zone. We had to break the zone just by pushing the ball up the court.” (MH)
CHAVEZ FINDS A WAY TO CLOSE
In a 75-73 loss to North Caroline (Md.) on Friday, the Cesar Chavez Eagles (DC) hurt themselves with missed opportunities, shooting 16-of-32 at the free throw line and failing to convert on some good looks in the final seconds.
In Saturday’s Bracket 15 consolation game against Walt Whitman (Md.) they found themselves in a similar late pressure situation, but this time they found a way to finish.
After overcoming an 11-point second half deficit to force overtime, the Eagles held on in the extra period, surviving a potential game-winning 3-pointer by the Vikings in the final seconds.
“It’s always good to get a win,” Chavez coach Malcolm Battle said. “Walt Whitman is well-coached, well-disciplined and it’s a different style of play than we’re used to seeing. I was impressed with the character of our kids - even after we got down double-digits - to dig in and get stops. Sometimes, it not on the kids; we had to change up some of the stuff we did and no gimmicks, no tricks, let’s go straight man to man and let’s guard.’”
2018 guard Lawrence Martin led the Eagles with 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists. He made several critical free throws down the stretch in overtime, as the Eagles went 15-for-19 from the charity stripe overall.
“The best thing is we shot 77 percent from the free throw line,” Battle said. If we can do that and take care of the ball, even with all these youngs we have a chance to be pretty good by mid-January. So you won’t get any complaints out of me - I’ll always take the win. And they showed some resiliency, which always is a good thing.”
2018 guard Joey Squeri led Whitman with 29 points. (MH)
LAKE TAYLOR TURNS UP THE PRESSURE
After one quarter of Saturday’s game against Stephen Decatur (Md.), the Lake Taylor Titans (Va.) led, 19-16.
Then, they dialed up the defensive pressure and watched the devastation ensue.
The Titans forced 38 Seahawk turnovers and scored 49 points off of them to turn a tight game into an 88-39 rout. They outscored Decatur 28-9 in the second quarter and 30-8 in the third, emptying the benches late in the third quarter.
After runs to the state semifinals at the University of Maryland in recent years, Decatur is younger and less experienced this year. Their primary ball handler is 2018 guard and Maryland-Eastern Shore commit Kevon Voyles, and after he picked up his third foul of the game midway through the second quarter, they had trouble dealing with Lake Taylor’s pressure.
2018 forward Jalen Jordan led Lake Taylor in scoring with 20 points, while 2018 forward Dereon Seabron had 16 points and 11 rebounds and 2018 guard and Norfolk State commit Joe Bryant, Jr. added 13. In all, 10 different Titans scored as they improved to 10-0 on the season.
2020 center Churchill Bounds led Decatur with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting. (MH)
MIDDLEBURG’S KABIMBA ENJOYS EFFICIENT OUTING
2019 forward Joel Kabimba went for 28 points on 11-for-14 shooting and pulled down six rebounds in the 80-36 win over Snow Hill on Saturday.
The Middleburg Academy 6-8, 210-pound plays above the rim and moves extremely well, having the ability to get out and run in transition. He can also hit the outside shot as he connected 5 of 6 times from deep.
“I feel like I have a high IQ, passing the ball, making the right decision,” Kabimba said. “Since I’m the tallest player on my team, I play in the post. But if I get the ball in transition, coast-to-coast I go.”
Kabimba said he’s receiving interest from Denver, Drexel and Lehigh. His answered when asked what he offers a college program: “I can get buckets, I can rebound the ball and get others involved. I know what I’m capable of, but I’m also a team player. I want to make people around me better.”
NEW TOWN USES GOVERNOR’S CHALLENGE TO TEST YOUTH
In New Town’s 80-58 win over Washington on Saturday, coach Mike Daniel played 10 players at least 13 minutes, but noone more than 19.
At the Governor’s Challenge, games don’t count for the Maryland state playoffs. So, Daniel took advantage of the opportunity to test his talented, but inexperienced roster.
“Those 13 minutes, hopefully, in the long run, they pay off,” said Daniel, who believes his Titans can make another run in the Class 2A playoffs. Their last state title came in 2015. “Looking at today, we’re doing some right things.”
2020 6-6 forward Andrew Mills had a team-high 13 points (3-5 from deep) to go along with seven rebounds. 2019 6-5 guard Darrell Collins and 2019 6-4 guard Jordan Guerro both scored 12, while 2018 6-6 forward Tykei Farnell notched a double-double at 11 points and 10 rebounds.
2018 5-10 point guard Noel Carter, Daniel’s floor general, pitched in 10 points and dished a team-high five assists. Additionally, 2020 6-2 guard Martaz Robinson added nine points, three assists and three steals.
The Titans are now 4-2, with losses to 4A state semifinalist Wise and McKinley Tech (D.C.) in the first round of the Governor’s Challenge.
Daniel believes he has the personnel to reach the Xfinity Center in College Park once again and the only way to bridge gap between potential and execution is playing time.
“Right now, we need our bigs to get better,” Daniel said. “If they take a step up, I think we’re right there. … We can do some things, but I need my bigs to get better. Especially on the big stage.”
THIS TIME, ROCK CREEK COMPLETES RALLY
In their first game on Friday against Olympic (NC), the Rock Creek Christian (Md.) Eagles found themselves trying to rally back from 26 points down, ultimately falling short, 72-66.
On Saturday against Sanford (DE) the Eagles found themselves trailing in the second half again, but this time they came out on top. Rock Creek used a 21-12 third quarter run to seize the lead and survived a Sanford run in the final minutes to pick up aa 66-60 victory.
“At halftime, coach said we were playing good,” RCCA 2018 guard Jon Preston said, “but we weren’t playing with enough energy and playing disciplined enough on defense or offense - we were just launching up anything and turning the ball over. So, in the second half we took care of the ball, made our open shots and got to the rim.”
Preston led the Eagles with 15 points and 9 rebounds, while 2018 guard Frank Evans and 2019 guard Kyle Rose added 13 and 2018 forward Jermaine Harris finished with 12.
While the Eagles showed they have the tenacity and ability to battle back from being down, it’s not a road they want to continue on.
“Even though we play good through adversity, we always feel like we’ve got to be a first half team,” Preston said, “because trying to come back in the second half isn’t always an easy thing to do. But we just came out and did what we were supposed to do in the first half and held them and our big man [Harris] came to play in the second half.”
2020 guard Hassan Perkins led the Warriors with 17 points, while 2020 guard Jyare Davis had 13 and 2021 center Nnanna Njoku 11. (MH)
MORE DAY 5 STANDOUTS
Damion Baugh, Lincoln (Ga,) 2018 Guard
Jordan Bolder, Capital Christian (Md.) 2018 WIng
Dylin Borden, Annapolis Area Christian (Md.) 2019 Guard
Churchill Bounds, Stephen Decatur (Md.) 2020 Center
Ryle Burley, Scotland Campus Sports PG (Pa.) 2018 Guard
Eden Davis, Dover (DE) 2020 Guard
Antwan Epps, Bishop Sullivan (Va.) 2019 Guard
Myreon Jones, Lincoln (Ga.) 2018 Guard
Judah Jordan, Capital Christian (Md.) 2019 Guard
Arion Lewis, Valley Forge Military (Va.) 2019 Guard
Woody Newton, McKinley Tech (DC) 2019 Forward
Moulaye Sissoko, Lincoln (Ga.) 2019 Center
Josh Sproul, Washington (Md.) 2018 Guard
Marques Watson, Quality Education (PG (NC) 2019 Guard
Michael Wynn, Liberty Heights (NC) 2018 Guard
Eve Bernardoni, Walkersville (Md.) 2019 Guard
Kayla Cook, Mardela (Md.) 2018 Guard
Gracie Gardner, Worcester Prep (Md.) 2019 Forward
Elyse Lowet, Whitman (Md.) 2019 Guard
Jordn Odom, Gaithersburg (Md.) Guard
Natasha Pachelo, WT Woodson (Va.) 2019 Guard
Abby Pesansky, WT Woodson (Va.) 2020 Forward
Rachel Shurberg, WT Woodson (Va.) 2019 Guard