The Washington Post

Letters of Interest: Talented point guards take center stage in Maryland 4A semifinals

Magruder’s J.J. Epps will join a talented stock of point guards who will take the floor in Thursday’s Maryland 4A semifinals at Comcast Center. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

In advance of tonight’s Maryland 4A boys state semifinals, the Post’s Eric Detweiler examined the stellar career of North Point’s Marquis Wright, highlighting just one of the point guards in a fine class of floor generals that who will be on display at Comcast Center this weekend as the Maryland basketball state finals wrap up.

In a highly-anticipated rematch of last year’s semifinal, Wright’s fourth-ranked Eagles (24-1) will square off against No. 5 Eleanor Roosevelt (25-1), pitting the Loyola (Md.) bound Wright against Raiders’ point Emmanuel Matey – a defensive specialist who has caused problems for other talented guards this season.

In the other semifinal, defending state champion Magruder (23-2) will meet Baltimore Polytechnic. The point guard matchup in that game should be another key storyline, as Magruder’s diminuitive, but gritty leader JJ Epps meets a highly touted junior prospect in Poly’s John Crosby.

Strong guard play is critical at this time of the season, but this semifinal field seems particularly deep at the point guard position, Magruder Coach Dan Harwood said.

“This year, I think it’s pretty good,” Harwood said. “Point guard…you can do without one, but not many teams do.”

Epps and Wright arrive at Comcast Center with plenty of experience, having played on this stage the last couple of years. Epps is a four-year starter won a state title last year, while Wright carried his team to the state semifinal against Roosevelt before losing in the final minute in 2012, a year after he helped the Eagles win the 4A championship in 2011.

That experience should give the Eagles and Colonels a boost in their respective games, but both players will be tested against long, rangy guards on Thursday. Matey isn’t a prolific scorer, but at 6-feet, he presents an intriguing challenge for Wright (6-1). Meantime, the 5-foot-6 Epps could have his hands full against the 6-foot-3 Crosby. Whether the players are checking each other defensively will depend on coaching strategy, but at the very least, a stable of versatile and unique point guards will be on display Thursday night.

“You’re seeing teams that you don’t usually play against,” said Harwood. “You’re going be seeing some different defenses from some different players and it’s a little more improvising sometimes … that’s why it’s important to have a guard.”

The number of postseason wins combined for North Point’s Marquis Wright (13) and Magruder’s JJ Epps (11) since joining their respective varsity teams as freshmen in 2009. The two players met just once in the postseason, in the 2011 Maryland 4A semifinal, with North Point winning 71-56.

— The Post’s Eric Detweiler catches up with Thomas Stone’s Michael Briscoe, who is still awaiting his first scholarship offer.
— Former St. John’s and Georgetown star Chris Wright joined the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, becoming the first known NBA player to compete with multiple sclerosis. It’s been a long journey back to the hardwood for Wright.
— Gonzaga alumnus Ian Hummer continued a strong family tradition of playing basketball at Princeton, and now is the Ivy league Player of the Year.

No. 4 North Point vs. No. 5 Eleanor Roosevelt at Comcast Center, 9 p.m.
This rematch from last year’s 4A state semifinal (Eleanor Roosevelt won, 65-63) will feature two of the area’s top teams looking to advance to Saturday night’s title game. The nightcap headlines a strong day of playoff basketball action at the Comcast Center, which will also host Reservoir (19-6) vs. Potomac (Md.) (21-3) in a 3A semifinal at 5 p.m. and the 4A semifinal between Magruder and Baltimore Polytechnic at 7.

Have a high school sports question? Start a new thread in our forums and I’ll do my best to weigh in. (Click on ‘New Topic‘ to start your thread.)

Roman Stubbs covers the University of Maryland athletics for The Washington Post.



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