Boys’ basketball: ‘Anything can happen’ in Maryland 4A South playoffs

Maybe the word “upset” shouldn’t be used in reference to any outcome in the Maryland boys’ 4A South region. Comprised entirely of Prince George’s County schools, the region yielded the first big surprise of the 2014 tournament when Suitland (13-9) knocked off Eleanor Roosevelt (16-7) Friday in an opening-round game.

The Raiders, though somewhat less experienced than the squad that won the 2013 4A title, were the favorite in that game, a never-count-them-out type team that always seemed to find its way back to the region championship, having held a firm grip on the South region title for the past few seasons.

Suitland, by contrast, hovered around .500 all year, going 9-8 against Prince George’s County competition. The Rams never stated a glaring case to emerge from their region, nor found themselves consensus contenders after the regular season. But they weren’t always run out of gyms by the top teams either, pairing lopsided results with more promising ones against opponents like No. 3 Wise (19-2) and C.H. Flowers (16-5). Notably, Suitland had lost two games to Roosevelt by a combined six points.

So when the Rams earned that 68-65 win over the Raiders Friday, it was an expected surprise — Suitland coach George McClure said he thought it was possible, and his players agreed.

“We knew we did something wrong in both games we lost” to Roosevelt during the regular season, said Suitland’s Gerard Grey, whose absence because of foul trouble for much of the middle of Friday’s game made his team’s eventual win more improbable. “We knew if we could execute that stuff in the playoff game, with a chance to knock off the defending champs, it would be a big win. So that was a good win for us.”

Some teams might use stronger adjectives to describe that kind of playoff win, but for those familiar with the Prince George’s County 4A scene, anything stronger would discredit the league’s nightly competition.

The other Friday night matchup in the lower half of the 4A South bracket pitted Oxon Hill (6-14) against Bowie (15-8). The Clippers waxed inconsistent all season, but beat Suitland and Roosevelt at points in the regular season, while pushing Wise to a five-point finish. Bowie, which downed the Clippers, 70-45, on Friday, beat Flowers this season — but also lost to the Jaguars. The Bulldogs beat Suitland once — but also lost to the Rams. Roosevelt had beaten Flowers and Bowie, but lost to Oxon Hill. Wise crushed Roosevelt, but needed overtime to beat Parkdale (8-14), the No. 2 seed in the top half of the 4A South bracket.

In other words, it’s tough to call any 4A South result an upset, as the teams involved know each other well, play each other often, and have the results to prove that almost every team in the region has the firepower to beat another if the stars align. That Wise went undefeated in league play was a surprising achievement given the consistent challenges the league presents, but it’s not necessarily a predictor of a smooth ride through the region.

“I think everybody in our league is subject to being beaten, especially when you talk about the playoff round,” Flowers Coach Marc Edwards said. “We’re in a brutal section, but it’s going to be interesting and make for a fun playoffs. Especially because there’s talent on the other section, too...there’s no guarantees any team will be there in the next round. Anything can happen with any of us, to be honest with you.”

Chelsea Janes covers the Nationals for The Washington Post.
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