As they tipped off a season loaded with expectations built on an experienced lineup with size to spare, No. 12 Wise showcased the approach its hopes will propel it deep into the playoffs in a 61-48 win over No. 19 DuVal.
“We’ve got four kids that are 6-5, 6-6,” Wise Coach Rob Garner said. “That needs to be our first look. This year, instead of playing out then in, we’re playing in then out.”
The Tigers displayed an ultra-athletic lineup, but one shorter and lighter at nearly every position, so the Pumas’ girth in the paint disrupted many DuVal drives and attempted aerial maneuvers.
Micah Till, at 6 feet 5, filled the lane nearly single-handedly, brushing off would-be rebounders as easily as he turned paint possessions into points. Till, the leading returning scorer in Prince George’s County (15.9 ppg last season), finished with 17 points to lead Wise.
“I think we have one of the biggest teams in the 4A,” said senior guard Justice Sneed. “We have to use our size to help us get wins. Big Micah here, just let him go in the paint, let him do his thing, and let our guys do the rest.”
Sneed scored 15 points and fellow senior gaurd Lavonte Sanders added 16, demonstrating the perils for opponents hoping to shut down Wise by taking away Till or fellow bigs Devin Moore, Jelan Sloan and Trevor Brown, all of whom chipped in Thursday.
Sanders and Sneed also filled passing lanes and stayed with DuVal’s speedy guards in transition, two crucial components of a team-wide defensive effort that Till said was “the key.” That defensive effort, in particular disruptive play in the full-court press, turned a four-point Pumas’ halftime lead into a 13-point advantage midway through the second half.
“We knew they were athletic,” Sanders said. “We just tried to take more charges, box out, and be disciplined.”
DuVal, young and in its second game of the season, displayed flashes of athleticism that could be corralled into the kind of explosive offensive attack that may prove tough to stop by season’s end. Sophomore A.J. Wilson provided the highlight of the night, picking a rebound off the glass and slamming it home for the Tigers, who, as Garner put it, “flew around the court.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Wilson leapt over Till in pursuit of a rebound. Till stepped beneath him, muscling his way to the ball as Wilson came crashing to the floor. In that play, as in the rest of the game, Wise’s size and strength undermined even the most agile of opponents. The Pumas hope that trend continues throughout the season.
“We knew they were athletic,” Till said. “Stopping them attacking the basket was going to help.”