Yearning for a true state championship? Just keep on dreaming

On High Schools

High Schools

March 13, 2005|By MILTON KENT

SCATTERSHOOTING through the state boys and girls basketball tournaments:

While recruiting talent at the girls Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association tournament the other day, a college coach dropped in the $64,000 question that silently hangs over the boys and girls proceedings.

"Why don't the private schools play in the state tournament?" asked the coach. "How do you know who's the best team?"

How do you know, indeed? It does seem more than a tad odd that in a state this small, the differences between the public and private schools are so big as to make it improbable, if not impossible, that we would see a unifying tournament that would decide, once and for all, who the top teams are.

Wouldn't you like to see how DaJuan Summers of McDonogh would fare against, say, Rodney Spruill of Walbrook? Could Chandrea Jones' Institute of Notre Dame team win a title if it had to face Arundel's Alex Maguire, and on and on?

Of course you would, and when you factor in the private schools in the Washington suburbs, like DeMatha and Riverdale Baptist, a state hoops tournament could be an amazing event.

No one should hold a collective breath waiting for it to happen. Those aforementioned gaps in perspective between the various private school organizations around the Baltimore area and the state and the MPSSAA aren't just incremental. They are valleys, and until either or both sides are willing to meet the other halfway, they aren't likely to be bridged.

Just as the lords who run college football maintain that the current bowl system allows for more than one school to go home happy, there will be those who will say the same for the public-private separation, and that's fine for them. It would just be nice for the rest of us to call one champion a true champion, rather than debating it in a chat room or on a bulletin board.

It's time for state boys to play the game with a shot clock. The 35 seconds that the college men play with might work, or perhaps a 30-second possession clock, a la the women's game, could be prudent. And since the schools already have shot clocks in place because of the girls, there isn't an added expense involved, as there would be if they tried to add a third referee, as is in play for the tournament.

It's hard to imagine a better spot for the girls tournament than the RAC Arena at UMBC. The size is just large enough to give everyone room to operate but is just intimate enough to approximate the high school gym atmosphere that just about everyone is used to.

Meanwhile, the boys tournament at Comcast Center in College Park feels like the games are being played in a barn, absent the occasions when Washington-area teams are on the floor.

To wit, Allegany High from Western Maryland brought a sizable contingent of students and adults from the school to cheer their Campers on Friday in their Class 1A meeting against Dunbar, and they might as well have been in Greenbelt for the atmosphere they were able to generate. Their school spirit wasn't in question, but the fans were so far away from the court that they almost didn't matter.

It's a shame that Cole Field House, just across campus, can't be used for basketball anymore, as it is for the state wrestling tournament. What old Cole lacks in accouterments, it more than makes up for in ambience.

And while the gripe session is open, is there any logical reason to play tournament games after 8 p.m. on school nights? Surely the schedules can be finessed to allow for games to be played earlier than the 9 p.m. tip-offs Thursday.

Better yet, why not play the semifinals Friday and Saturday and the finals Sunday, with the first games starting at 11 a.m. or noon?

The previously unbeaten River Hill girls team, which finally was able to break through its longstanding block against Prince George's County squads, knocking off longtime nemesis Gwynn Park in the regional finals, would rather have the Class 3A title than sympathy for falling short against an outstanding and seriously underrated Milford Mill team in the semis.

In that vein, how odd it must feel for the Millers, who got to the finals six times in the past seven years under former coach Pam Wright, only to get back under new coach DeToiya Mc- Aliley.

"All she [Wright] did was make a path for us," said senior guard Tammy Rogers. "She taught us a lot of stuff, and all we did was fill in those footsteps that she made for us. I thank her for that."

A tip of the hat to City College alum Larry Richardson, who pulled off a rare double Thursday: attending the Atlantic Coast Conference men's tournament in Washington during the afternoon and the Class 3A girls semifinals in Catonsville that night.

Richardson, whose son attends River Hill and whose wife, Diane, coaches the Riverdale Baptist girls team, said he pulled off a similar twin bill the week before, taking in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament in Raleigh, N.C., and the ACC women's tourney in Greensboro during the same day.

"I'm just a basketball fanatic. I kind of mapped it out," Richardson said.

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