Riverdale Baptist 63,

Paul VI Catholic 54

The Riverdale Baptist boys' basketball program got significantly better in the last several days.

On Friday, Coach Louis Wilson got word that 6-foot-9 rising freshman Michael Beasley would attend the school this fall. Yesterday, with Beasley leading the way, the Crusaders defeated Paul VI Catholic, 63-54, to capture the And 1 High School Basketball Championship's East Region II title at Run 'n' Shoot Athletic Center in District Heights.

With the victory, Riverdale Baptist earned a spot in the national tournament, to be played next weekend at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

"This sets the tone for what we're going to do during the season," said rising senior point guard Kenny Burkes.

Beasley grew up near Riverdale. He went to the IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton, Fla., last year but recently decided to come home for high school.

He immediately was inserted into Riverdale's starting summer lineup, joining three starters from last year's squad that finished 23-6.

Yesterday, he appeared to fit in seamlessly. He scored a game-high 22 points, had a game-high 18 rebounds (including eight offensive), blocked five shots and had two assists.

"He's an excellent player, and he still has a lot of room to grow," Wilson said. "He rebounds the basketball very well, he's athletic, he plays above the rim, he blocks a lot of shots. He's going to be a tremendous help for us this coming school year."

In the Crusaders' five victories during the tournament, Beasley averaged 17 points and presented a matchup nightmare for opponents. He possesses the ballhandling skills and outside shooting touch of a guard, but with 220 toned pounds on his frame, he also can play inside.

"I usually play the three [small forward] or the two [shooting guard], but I can bang inside," said Beasley, 15. "I can play all over."

He showed he could do it all yesterday, scoring on post moves, in transition and from the field, passing the ball to open teammates when he was double-teamed and running the floor.

In addition to Beasley, the Crusaders got standout performances from Burkes (six points, eight assists) and rising junior forward Edwin Bailey (12 points, 11 rebounds). Rising junior Danny Sumner led Paul VI with 18 points.

Beasley opened the second half by banking in a jumper from just outside the lane, then grabbed an offensive rebound and completed a three-point play to spark a 17-6 run that put the Crusaders in front, 45-34.

The Panthers closed to 52-50 after two free throws by rising senior Arthur Dabney with 2 minutes 37 seconds to play, but Riverdale answered with a pair of free throws from Burkes and a thunderous follow-up dunk by Beasley.