For Maryland public school boys’ basketball teams, the path to a state title became a little more clear on Sunday morning with the release of the draws for all four classifications. Region play begins one week from Tuesday on Feb. 26 with the state finals set for Saturday, March 16 at Comcast Center in College Park.
This time around the Maryland 4A bracket has a familiar look with three returning region champions — Eleanor Roosevelt (South), North Point (East) and Magruder (West) — earning top seeds again this year. The Raiders (21-1) have won their region three straight seasons, while the Eagles (21-1) are seeking their third consecutive state tournament appearance.
The bracket is laid out for the state semifinal matchups to repeat with the South and East champs meeting on one side and West and North winners on the other. That configuration raises the possibility of a state final rematch between eighth-ranked Eleanor Roosevelt and No. 12 Magruder. The Colonels won, 39-36, last year with now-senior point guard J.J. Epps sealing the victory at the free throw line.
Sherwood, which won the Maryland 4A North last season, drew the 11th seed in the 12-team region, meaning the Warriors are unlikely to play another home game this season. No. 13 Paint Branch — the Montgomery 4A East champ — grabbed the third seed and would host Sherwood in its playoff opener if the Warriors win at Perry Hall.
In 3A, No. 9 Potomac (Md.) (18-2) is the lone local team to earn a top seed. The Wolverines, led by heralded junior guard Dion Wiley, will host through the region final when they could welcome defending region champ Thomas Stone.
River Hill (17-5) took the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the 3A East region and could play Centennial, a state tournament participant last year, in its opening game. None of the six Montgomery County teams in the 3A West earned a top-four seed, meaning their seeds were all randomly assigned.
No. 11 Oakland Mills, the last remaining unbeaten public school team in the state at 22-0, garnered the No. 1 seed in the competitive 2A South. The Scorpions have not qualified for the state tournament since 2001, and to make it this year, they’ll have to get past a group of teams that includes Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A runner-up Central and 16-win Calvert out of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference.
Across the bracket in the 2A West, Poolesville (16-5) parlayed its first Montgomery division title in 11 years into the No. 2 seed behind only Oakdale of Frederick County.
Two of the area’s three teams in the state’s smallest classification will match up in the opening round when Surrattsville, seeded second in the 1A South, hosts Forestville.
Related: Girls’ tournament preview