It was billed as a showdown between two of the Maryland Scholastic Association B Conference's best guards, but Carver center Rodney Black stole the show yesterday, as the Bears held off Mervo, 64-61, in a non-division matchup of division leaders.
Black, a 6-foot-4 junior, scored 21 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and had six blocks for No. 20 Carver (8-3). Mervo dropped to 7-3.
Carver and Edmondson lead Division I, and Mervo and Forest Park lead Division II.
"I told the boys before the game that this might be a preview of what will happen at the Civic Center [site of the B Conference championship game in March]," said Carver coach Durce Jackson, whose team led by as many as 18 in the first half. "This was a test of whether we could really play. I thought this was one of the most talented teams we'd play this year, and we came through with flying colors."
Both teams had trouble controlling the ball in a game that moved at a blistering pace. Carver turned the ball over 26 times and Mervo 20. The Bears shot better, hitting 22 of 55 shots, and Mervo finished 24 of 70.
Yesterday's game offered an intriguing matchup at shooting guard, with Carver senior Steven Hicks taking on senior George Raikes. Each had recently been honored as The Sun's Player of the Week.
Both started slowly and finished strong. Raikes led all scorers with 29 points, including 20 in the second half. Hicks had 18 points (13 in the second half), seven rebounds and seven assists, but it was Black who sparked the Bears, dominating inside.
"Every year, we always have a horse," said Jackson. "Last year, Dante Carter was our horse. Rodney Black is our horse this year. We ride him, and he's been consistent all year long."
Black started slowly, missing his first three shots and going scoreless while Carver took advantage of nine Mervo first-quarter turnovers to build a 14-5 lead.
Black heated up in the second quarter, hitting all five shots, as Carver built a 30-12 lead before settling for a 32-21 halftime advantage. Mervo continued to have shooting problems in the third quarter (five of 18), as Carver increased its lead to 48-36.
But in the fourth quarter, Raikes got hot, scoring 12. His three point-play with 3 minutes, 5 seconds left capped a 9-0 rally and cut the Bears' lead to 52-51.
But Carver scored the next six on two free throws by Black, two by Hicks off a technical against Mervo and a layup by Eric Burley (11 points, five assists) to build a 58-51 lead. The Bears then made six of eight free throws in the final 1:52 to hold off the Mustangs, who also got 23 points from Warren Wright.