Boys’ basketball: Douglass stakes its claim in loaded Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A

Quietly, the Douglass boys’ basketball team has climbed the 3A/2A/1A standings this season, an ascent punctuated Friday night with a major upset win over then-No. 7 Potomac (Md.). The Eagles’ 84-79 victory in a back-and-forth game with the Wolverines, who many believe are a lock for a deep run through the state playoffs, speaks to what those who follow Prince George’s County basketball know, but what those outside the league may not: PG 3A/2A/1A is loaded with talent, and its top six teams beat each other up to unpredictable results on a nightly basis.

So while Douglass was certainly proud to shock the Wolverines on an emotional senior night, the Eagles (11-8, 11-4 Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A) have learned all too well not to ride one win to an emotional peak, nor one loss to a deep confidence valley.

“It doesn’t hurt our confidence that we’ve had success against the teams in our section,” Douglass Coach Tyrone Massenburg said. “But, on the flip side, they’ve also had success against us.”

The Eagles’ record against the other top six teams in its league supports their cautious optimism: they’ve split with Potomac, Largo, Gwynn Park and Crossland, and lost their one matchup to Central. So goes the record for most of that tightly packed sextet, a group led by Potomac’s 13-2 conference record, with Crossland within shouting distance with seven conference wins. The league boasts two of the top five scorers in the entire D.C. area in Largo’s Abdulai Bundu (26.1 points per game) and Central’s Davon Taylor (25.2 ppg), and six of the area’s top 50 scorers. Devoted crowds made up of neighbors and members of shared communities with long high school basketball memories fuel intense rivalries Massenburg says make his league special among area public school conferences.

“Our league doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves,” Massenburg said. “We play a high-caliber game every night. It’s definitely worth five dollars to watch Gwynn Park/Largo or Largo/Douglass, Potomac/Gwynn Park — those are high-intensity games equal to a Paul VI/O’Connell game. They may not get the attention, but the passion is definitely there.”

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from the week of basketball in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

Massenburg said he believes part of the appeal of the league comes from the fact that players aren’t headed off to major college programs as often as those from the WCAC or other notable leagues: for many, these games represent much more than stepping stones to bigger things — they are chances to play for communities that care deeply and share court time with friends that may not have the chance to play four more years.

“I don’t feel that our league is underrated — we don’t get the publicity everyone else does — but it doesn’t matter because a win is a win to me” said Douglass senior Marsalis Hurley, who said people in the County and in school know how important each game is for the Eagles. “Going into last week, classmates were saying, ‘oh Dion Wiley’s going to do this, do that,’ but when I look and we’re practicing hard, people step up — like [junior Kyle Green] stepped up and scored 30 points that night off the bench — I felt like we could get the victory. Our league’s crazy right now, but we feel we have just as good a chance as anybody.”

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