In the tradition that is March Madness for high school and college basketball teams during their respective playoffs, the addition of the Maryland Private School boys’ basketball tournament has introduced several non-traditional, yet intriguing, matchups.
WCAC contenders like DeMatha and McNamara have clashed with Capital Beltway and IAC champions Clinton Christian and Bullis, respectively, creating contests that most could only dream about seeing in the past, and shaking up the balance of the power in the deeply talented DMV.
The 12-team field has been narrowed down to four for this weekend’s semifinals at DeMatha. Here’s a preview of the two games on slate for Saturday:
No. 1 Bullis vs. No. 6 Clinton Christian (6 p.m.)
Two of the area’s hottest teams will take to the court first on Saturday with a great deal to prove. Top-ranked Bullis has defeated 15 of its past 16 opponents by at least 10 points and hasn’t lost to an area team all season. But with most of their games coming against unranked IAC teams, the Bulldogs are poised to show their prowess against the area’s No. 8 squad in Clinton Christian.
Bullis is propelled by a balanced offensive attack spread among double-digit scorers Aaron Briggs, Russell Sangster and Jamal Greenwood and a defensive front led by senior shotblocker Andre Walker.
On the other side, Clinton Christian has turned up its play in the past two weeks, shaking off a three-game losing streak to beat National Christian and Riverdale Baptist en route to the Capital Beltway crown. League MVP Jon Davis has elevated his play by attacking the basket and getting to the line, while sharpshooter Byron Hawkins helps open the paint for the Eagle forwards Leroy Butts and Develle Phillips.
No. 2 Riverdale Baptist vs. No. 5 St. Mary’s Ryken (7:30 p.m.)
A furious rally in the final four minutes by St. Mary’s Ryken in Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup against Capitol Christian helped set up this semifinal contest. Jarin Hilson recorded a triple-double with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists to lead the Knights back against Capitol Christian’s high-powered offense for a 79-70 win.
A similar output by Hilson will be necessary to counter the depth and athleticism of Riverdale Baptist. Led by Chinanu Onuaku and Taron Oliver, who combined for 40 points, 25 rebounds and six blocks in Thursday rout of Spalding, and lightning-quick Dequan Abrom and Apronti Jones, the Crusaders feature matchup problems all across the floor. Riverdale Baptist is prone to suffocating its opponents early before riding the fast start to victory. The Knights possess the skills necessary to also push the tempo, as versatile forwards Donte Etheridge and Deividas Zemgulis, who’s been impressive with his inside-outside play, know how to finish off of plays created by Hilson at the point.