Maryland 4A girls’ basketball playoff preview: region by region breakdown


Whitman sophomore Marie Hatch (left) and Eleanor Roosevelt junior Tolu Omokore (right) led their teams to top seeds for the Maryland 4A tournament, which begins this weekend. (Jonathan Newton/Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Maryland 4A vital stats

• 51 teams

• State semifinals March 13, 3 and 5 p.m., at SECU Center

• State final March 15, 3 p.m., SECU Center

• Defending champion: North Point

4A North

No. 1 seeds: Catonsville, Howard

Contenders: Catonsville (20-3), Howard (20-2), Paint Branch (20-2)

Upset potential: Perry Hall (15-7)

Potential games to watch:

— Perry Hall vs. Catonsville — region semifinal, Mar. 6

— Paint Branch vs. Howard — region semifinal, Mar. 6

Breakdown:

The top half of the 4A North bracket features Baltimore-area teams with little crossover schedule-wise with the Montgomery and Howard County teams on the bottom half. Top seed Catonsville cruised through area 4A competition — its only losses came to 3A power Milford Mill and prep power Seton Keough — and should therefore be a safe bet for a berth in the region final. Who they’ll face depends largely on the defense of other No. 1 seed Howard, which allows just more than 30 points per game — fourth-best in the D.C. area. That defense will be tested in a likely region semifinal matchup with Montgomery County power Paint Branch, led by one of the area’s top players in Kiara Colston (18.1 ppg) and an emergent force in Daisa Harris (18 ppg). Whether lockdown defense or star-powered offense prevails, whichever team survives the lower half of the bracket should pose a good challenge to Catonsville at the top should the Comets survive a likely upset bid from Perry Hall, which played them to within four points earlier this year.

4A South

No. 1 seeds: Laurel, Eleanor Roosevelt

Contenders: Eleanor Roosevelt (20-0), C.H. Flowers (16-1)

Upset potential: C.H. Flowers (16-1), Bowie (15-7)

Potential games to watch:

— Bowie at Roosevelt — region quarterfinal, Mar. 4

— Flowers at Roosevelt — region semifinal, Mar. 6

Parkdale at Laurel — region semifinal, Mar. 6

Breakdown:

This is Eleanor Roosevelt’s region to lose, and the chances of that happening are slim. The Raiders have dominated teams in this region, all of which come from Prince George’s County. Only Bowie challenged the Raiders during the regular season, pushing them in an eight-point loss in December. Flowers may have the most realistic chance at knocking Roosevelt off — hence their placement in the “contender” category — but after a 26-point loss to the Raiders in January, even that would be a major upset. The top half of the region bracket doesn’t feature any legitimate threats to emerge from the region, though Laurel (Megan Brown, Lisa Jing) and Parkdale (Kareema Conteh) feature top-flight scorers who should make for an entertaining semifinal matchup if both teams get there.

4A West

No. 1 seeds: Whitman, Wootton

Contenders: Whitman (20-2), Wootton (15-7), Kennedy (17-3)

Upset potential: Magruder (15-6), Churchill (13-9), Blair (15-7)

Potential games to watch:

— Churchill vs. Kennedy — region quarterfinal, Mar. 4

— Magruder vs. Wootton — region semifinal, Mar. 6

— Kennedy vs. Whitman — region semifinal, Mar. 6

Breakdown:

Whitman emerged from the 4A West last season and has the best resume of any team in this all-Montgomery County region, but it won’t be an easy road. Kennedy may be the best defensive team in the region, which is always a dangerous tool in one-and-done scenarios. Magruder’s been a pest all season, and could prevent the region’s other top seed — Wootton — from earning a berth in the region final. Upsets could play a major role in here as Churchill, Gaithersburg and others loom with plenty of talent to knock off a familiar contender.

4A East

No. 1 seeds: Old Mill, North Point

Contenders: North Point (20-2), Old Mill (19-4), South River (19-4)

Upset potential: Severna Park (17-4), Broadneck (7-13)

Potential games to watch:

— Severna Park at Old Mill — region semifinal, Mar. 6

— South River at North Point — region semifinal, Mar. 6

— Old Mill/Severna Park vs. North Point — region final, Mar. 8

Breakdown:

Because of experience, pedigree, and a solid 2013-14 resume, it’s tough not to pick defending 4A champions North Point to emerge from this region, which features mostly Anne Arundel and SMAC teams. That said, the big three from Anne Arundel County — No. 1 seed Old Mill and region No. 2 seeds Severna Park and South River — are battle-tested from beating up on one another all season, and likely won’t back down from a region semifinal (in the case of South River) or final showdown with the defending champs. South River won the Anne Arundel County championship by beating Old Mill last week, but the Patriots beat the Seahawks earlier this season. Severna Park challenged Old Mill and beat South River once during the regular season, and with Rachel VanderKolk (15 ppg) leading the way, the Falcons may be poised for some big upsets — upsets like the one Broadneck pulled over South River late in the season, which earned them “upset potential” status despite a losing conference record.

Big 4A Picture

Many of the top teams from last year’s 4A final four return as top seeds this season, including North Point, Whitman and Eleanor Roosevelt. Among the more pressing questions in this season’s bracket is the relative skill level of the 4A North, which features Catonsville and Howard as No. 1 seeds. Despite the plethora of contenders, Eleanor Roosevelt seems a safe favorite. The Raiders fell to North Point in overtime in last year’s state semifinals, but return their core almost entirely intact, while North Point lost its top four scorers to graduation or transfer. Whitman, too, is back in force, though the Vikings may have a tough time escaping the familiarity of an all-Montgomery region. That said, Whitman was perfect against county foes this season and has playoff experience in its back pocket.

Full Maryland playoff brackets

Girls region-by-region breakdowns: 4A | 3A | 2A | 1A

Boys region-by-region breakdowns: 4A | 3A | 2A | 1A

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