Brandon Peel took the pass in the corner midway through the third quarter as sixth-ranked Riverdale Baptist pulled away. The 6-foot-6 senior forward sized up a defender and dribbled along the baseline, then rose up for a powerful dunk.
“I rarely do that,” Peel said. “That definitely felt good. They’ve been trying to teach me that for years.”
While that one play was a moment of offensive flash for Peel, the rest of the evening was his standard night of dirty work. The Central Connecticut State recruit finished with 10 points, 23 rebounds and five blocked shots as the host Crusaders won their 20th consecutive game, beating Theodore Roosevelt, 67-49, in a nonleague game Friday night in Upper Marlboro.
“He just gobbles up balls,” Riverdale Coach Louis Wilson said. “When I call [statistics] in, they say, ‘Oh yeah, he’s just padding stats.’ ”
On a team with plenty of talent and balanced scoring, Peel knows his role. In fact, when his mother, Teresa, recently said he had to choose between buying a new pair of sneakers or kneepads, Peel said the decision was easy. Those week-old black kneepads already are ripped, he said, but they are doing the job protecting his knees.
“I’m on the floor a lot, diving for loose balls, taking charges,” Peel said. “So I sprung for the kneepads.”
Wilson, who earlier this season earned his 500th career victory, could not remember the last time he saw a high school player wearing kneepads.
“Haven’t seen one in a while,” he said. “That’s throwback stuff.”
Wilson knew Peel was a strong rebounder – with a knack for positioning his body and using his long arms — but this season he asked Peel to take on a larger role offensively. Peel’s scoring has increased slightly from 10.8 to 11.8 points per game, but plays like that dunk give hope that Peel’s game will continue to develop.
“He could score more, but he’s so unselfish,” Wilson said. “We’re getting on him all the time about taking shots – he doesn’t take enough shots.”
Senior guard Olajuwon Lewis and junior forward Khary Doby led the Crusaders (26-2) with 13 points apiece. Senior forward De’Von Barnett added nine points, including a pair of big dunks during a 9-0 run midway through the third quarter that put the game away.