Weekend walk-through: Boys' basketball
Thursday, January 13, 2011; 4:35 PM
With several top players returning from last season's team that reached the Maryland 2A championship game, Gwynn Park began the season with high expectations. Midway through the season, however, the Yellow Jackets are .500 and struggling to find their identity after losing a key player to injury.
Coach Mike Glick said that when junior shooting guard Eric Batts tore knee ligaments in a holiday tournament game against 13th-ranked Wise, things changed drastically for his team. Two other starters were injured in that game - forward Tion Barnes and guard Daniel Henry - and have since returned, but Batts, who averaged 7.3 points, is out for the season.
"We were down to Wise by two when Batts went down, it changed the whole season," Glick said. "He was out heart and soul, our best defensive guard and hardest worker on our team."
With Batts out, Gwynn Park (5-5, 4-2 Prince George's 3A/2A/1A) has had great difficulty scoring against zone defenses, which nearly every opponent has played. It did not help that the Yellow Jackets had a challenging schedule that also included nonleague games against Virginia AAA defending champion I.C. Norcom, Wise and Riverdale Baptist.
Guard Brandon Ford, a Loyola recruit, has been the only Yellow Jacket to play in every game. He is averaging 17.7 points, while Barnes averages 11.9 points. Those two players will need to carry the load again Friday, when Gwynn Park hosts Fairmont Heights (5-5, 3-3), which features senior forward Lamont Adair (19.6 points per game).
"We're struggling shooting the basketball from outside and everybody has played us zone," Glick said. "We don't have a consistent outside shooter and everybody is shading Brandon. The season is by no means over for us. We just have to get better."
Second ranked DeMatha continues its road show Saturday against nationally-ranked St. Anthony's of Jersey City, N.J., in the HoopHall Classic in Springfield, Mass. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
The Stags (13-1 entering Thursday's game against 14th-ranked Paul VI Catholic) already have won a holiday tournament in Portland, Ore., and lost to St. Andrew's of Barrington, R.I., in Wheeling W.Va., this past weekend. DeMatha also plays Virginia AAA defending champion I.C. Norcom, which like St. Anthony's is undefeated, on Jan. 29 in Portsmouth, Va.
"If you look at our schedule this year, when we made it we were looking to challenge ourselves," Stags Coach Mike Jones said.
St. Anthony's Coach Bob Hurley this past August became the second coach into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for his contributions to high school basketball. The first was former DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten who will be in attendance Saturday. ...
Neither, though, will have any rest before hand.
The Bears must hold off a St. Stephen's/St. Agnes team that is desperate for a win after dropping four straight before Thursday night's game against Bullis - though those losses include defeats to two out-of-area schools and top-ranked Montrose Christian. Episcopal, meanwhile, squares off with Georgetown Prep, which has won nine of its last 12 - with losses to out of area programs Strake Jesuit and Mercersburg Academy, as well as a two-point loss to Bullis.
Prep has been led by 6-foot-9 senior forward Taylor Abt (Holy Cross), who is averaging 17.93 points per game and has registered a double-double in all but three contests this season, including the last nine games.
Landon and Episcopal will showcase a few of the area's top players, including Landon 6-7 forward Darion Atkins (Virginia), who is averaging 11.42 points per game, and guard Joe McDonald (17.33 ppg.), and Episcopal's 6-6 junior Arnaud Adala-Moto, who has the range to play inside-out and is averaging a team-high 19.44 points per game. ...
Also this weekend, coaches of the six Interstate Athletic Conference teams will wear sneakers and golf shirts on the sideline as their schools try to raise money for cancer research. During the games, the schools will be taking donations for the V Foundation for Cancer Research. ...
In the Northern Region, Herndon could face a stiff test against underrated Westfield, which has played tough in losses to Edison, South County, Mount Vernon and Potomac (Va.), some of the top contenders in Virginia this season.
Led by junior center Zach Elcano (15.75 ppg.), Westfield must find a way to stop - or at least slow - senior guard Austin Hamilton, who is averaging 23.54 points per game, fifth-best in the area. Herndon has won seven of its past eight, with the only recent blemish an upset loss to Oakton on Jan. 7.