In the last three days, Friendly High School's second-ranked boys' basketball team has lost the top seed in the Maryland 3A East Region Tournament because of a forfeit and received a less-than-favorable draw that could send the Patriots to Gwynn Park for a demanding second-round playoff game.
Yesterday at Centennial High in Ellicott City, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association's boys' and girls' basketball committees held the draws for this season's region tournaments. In each region, the top four teams (or five in cases of a tie) were seeded one through four (or five), based on their regular season winning percentages (excluding holiday tournaments). The remaining teams in each region were placed by blind draw.
Friendly appeared to have the top seed in the 3A East locked up last week, but Friday the Patriots had to forfeit a game for holding an illegal practice. As a result, Friendly's record (excluding three holiday tournament victories) went from 17-0 to 16-1, and its winning percentage dipped below that of Annapolis (18-1), which was granted the top seed in the region.
Then yesterday, Douglass and Gwynn Park received the seventh and 10th seeds, respectively, in the 3A East. If Gwynn Park (15-5) wins at Douglass in the opening round, it would host Friendly in the second round.
Friendly has beaten Gwynn Park twice this season (by six and 13 points), but the Yellow Jackets are tough in the playoffs. Gwynn Park has been to the state final three times in the last four years, and in the last 10 seasons under Coach Steve Matthews, the Yellow Jackets have lost at home only once during the postseason.
Friendly Coach Gerald Moore could not be reached to comment yesterday, but Matthews played down the implications of the draw and the potential second-round game against the Patriots.
"You have to play the best to be the best, so you can't run and hide," he said. "This year, with so many good teams in our region, you have to play a lot of good teams to get where you want to be."
Like Friendly, defending girls 4A champion Churchill has a tough game looming in the second round. The top-seeded Bulldogs have a first-round bye, but will face Springbrook in the West Region quarterfinals if the Blue Devils defeat Blair in the first round.
Springbrook dealt Churchill its first loss of the season, 55-52, on Dec. 19 to end the Bulldogs' 29-game winning streak. That was one of only two losses the Bulldogs suffered this season. Churchill, however, rebounded Jan. 28 with a 66-45 victory -- part of its current 14-game winning streak.
"I don't know that Springbrook would have been my first choice to have, but I think it helps us," Churchill Coach Pat Fisher said. "I would much rather play better teams to get prepared for the games down the road. They always give us a good game, so I'll have to prepare my team for another battle."
Oxon Hill's boys' and girls' teams both earned top seeds and first-round byes in the 4A South, and the River Hill girls' team won a coin flip against Gwynn Park to secure the top seed in the 3A East.
Three Anne Arundel County teams secured top seeds, including the Arundel girls (4A East), the Annapolis boys (3A East) and the Southern boys (2A South).