Sixth-ranked DeMatha staved off a late-fourth quarter rally as Justin Castleberry and Joe Palumbo each converted two crucial free throws in the final minutes to secure a 54-48 victory over 14th-ranked Magruder in the final of the Morgan Wootten Invitational yesterday at Comcast Center in College Park.
Magruder (0-1) cut an 11-point DeMatha lead to 48-46 when senior guard Pedro Argueta made a three-pointer from the baseline with 1 minute 58 seconds left in the game. Senior Julius Redd then grabbed a rebound on a missed foul shot by DeMatha senior center Steve Danley to give his team a chance to tie the game. But Magruder turned over the ball on an offensive foul.
Castleberry then sank two free throws to give DeMatha (2-0) a 50-46 lead with 1:30 remaining. Then Palumbo followed with two free throws to give the Stags a six-point lead. Magruder's Brandon Giles, who scored a team-high 14 points, connected on two more free throws to cut the deficit to four. After a failed DeMatha possession, Magruder missed two free throws with 59 seconds remaining. Then Shaka Dickerson made two foul shots with 18.6 seconds left to secure the victory for DeMatha.
"I'm just glad that I could find a way to help my team win," said Castleberry, who finished with a game-high 18 points. "It's our first big test of the season, and it's good to come out on top. We know there are going to be other games like this during the season."
Entering the season, O'Connell guard Erik Smith knew he would spend quite a bit of time feeding the ball to standout center Brian Johnson. But in the top-ranked Knights' 64-43 victory over defending Maryland 4A state champion Eleanor Roosevelt, Smith proved he can also ignite the offense.
The 5-foot-9 Smith made three three-pointers during a 19-6 run in the first quarter that gave the Knights a 19-8 lead. Smith then got some help from junior guard Fred Stanback (10 points) and sophomore Marcus Ginyard (12 points) as O'Connell took a 38-21 halftime lead as Johnson was forced to sit on the bench with three fouls.
"We know that teams are going to be focused on Brian," said Smith, who finished with two assists and one steal. "But we feel like we have so many weapons that it isn't going to be easy for teams to just key on one player."
Sophomore center Dave Neal turned in a solid performance filling in for Johnson with eight points and five rebounds.
"The balanced scoring was a great sign so early in the season," said O'Connell Coach Joe Wootten, whose team improved to 2-0 with the victory.
Sophomore guard Matt Samuels led Eleanor Roosevelt (0-1) with 10 points.
Spalding Wins 1st
Spalding junior transfer Rudy Gay scored 18 points and grabbed six rebounds, leading the No. 7 Cavaliers to their first season-opening win in four years with a 56-52 triumph over Archbishop Molloy of New York.
With 3:58 left and the game tied at 44, Spalding outscored Molloy 12-8, limiting Molloy to one field goal -- a three-pointer at the buzzer. Gay entered the fourth quarter with four fouls but kept his composure, scoring the first seven points to give the Cavaliers a 46-44 lead.
"Hopefully, we'll be nationally ranked," said Gay, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Eastern Tech in Baltimore. "That's my goal and that's the team's goal. To be nationally ranked, you have to beat good teams. We're really deep this year."
Gay caught a pass under the basket from junior Jesse Brooks and finished it with a dunk, giving the Cavaliers a 52-45 lead with less than a minute remaining. Brooks, who finished with 10 points and three assists, made 4 of 6 free throws in the final 17.6 seconds.
Gay "is an outstanding player," said Molloy Coach Jack Curran, who has 817 career wins in 44 seasons. "He was the difference. The height is a factor. If you don't shoot well from the perimeter, it's hard to contend with that."
Thomas Johnson Rolls
A gritty defense combined with a 29-point performance from 6-2 senior Thomas Richard gave No. 10 Thomas Johnson a 76-52 victory over No. 18 Annapolis.
Thomas Johnson, last year's Maryland Class 4A runner-up, opened the game with a 12-1 run and led by at least 10 points for the rest of the game. The Patriots forced 23 turnovers, shot 60 percent from the field and built a 40-26 lead at halftime.
"Early in the game we forced some turnovers," said Thomas Johnson Coach Tom Dickman, Maryland's winningest public school coach. "They did throw it away a few times. Sometimes our best offense was our defense."
Richard, one of two returning starters for the Patriots, finished the game with five three-pointers, five steals and six rebounds. Annapolis, which enters the regular season with a 59-game winning streak against Anne Arundel County opponents, made 14 of 26 free throws and shot 38 percent from the field. Senior center Josh Johnson led the Panthers with 16 points and senior guard Laronja Owens had 12.
"They're too good of a defensive team for us to play the way we did on offense," Annapolis Coach John Brady said. "We had to make good passes and crisp cuts and we didn't do it. We got off to a terrible start. I don't think we need a lot of work, we need work. Win or lose, it's not going to change our season."