The start of Friday’s Rock Summer League championship was delayed about 10 minutes because a power outage inside High Point High’s gymnasium.
Unfortunately for Arundel’s boys’ basketball team, it had major breakdowns at the most inopportune time. The Wildcats lost to northern Virginia’s Bishop Ireton, 50-36.
Jeremiah Brooks led all scorers with 16 points for Ireton, and Louis Khouri added 12. Rising senior guard Keaton Mack had eight points to lead Arundel.
The Cardinals from the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference gained command in the second half to complete an unlikely run to the title. Ireton, coached by former Archbishop Curley headman Neil Berkman, was the No. 6 seed in the Division II bracket and knocked off last season’s Class 4A state finalist Eleanor Roosevelt in the bracket semifinals and defending Rock champ and perennial national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic in Thursday’s divisional finals.
After knocking off a pair of WCAC squads on its path, Arundel appeared in position to become the first Baltimore-area team to win the prestigious District region summer event. But the experienced Wildcats slowly crumbled Friday under the weight of numerous missed shots and inability to apply defensive pressure.
“We got away from playing team ball, running the offense and letting it come to us,” said Arundel guard Austin Carroll, who reached the finals as the No. 4 seed in the Division I bracket. “We started trying too hard to make stuff happen. We got away from how we normally played and caught up with being in the championship.”
“We got a lot of clean looks, we missed a lot of layups,” said Wildcats coach Jeff Starr. “When you miss layups, it’s kind of deflating and affects you on the other end of the court. You got to play through those problems.”
The Wildcats, who’ve had most of their roster this week as several others dealt with players at AAU showcase events in other states, didn’t have rising junior forward Darien Bryant (at AAU tournament in Philadelphia) Friday evening. The Gambrills school did have back rising senior point guard Keaton Mack.
Arundel got off to a fast 8-2 start as Mack scored six. Ireton closed the opening first half with seven unanswered points to claim a 16-12 halftime advantage.
The Wildcats were within 21-19 early in the second half after a three-point play by Aaron Lewis-Cenales, but would get no closer. A layup and a short hook shot from 6-foot-9 center Jamie Senft started a 10-2 run, extending Ireton’s lead into double digits, 31-21, with 10 minutes left. Arundel wasn’t able to respond as the deficit grew to 15 points.
In the final seconds, Carroll missed an easy layup. After a week of positive breaks, the Wildcats ran out of magic.
“We had more defensive lapses this game than we had the last month,” said Starr. “I don’t know if that’s because we played three games in a row. If we can pressure the ball and get defensive rebounds, we’re going to be in every game. We just didn’t have it as we did the past two nights.”
Arundel put together an impressive last couple of months, winning the Annapolis Area Christian title and making a historic charge at the Rock. The Wildcats will reconvene in the fall at the Severna Park league before starting preparation for the 2012-13 season in mid-November.
“We’re going in the right direction and the guys are buying in,” said Starr, whose team went 24-2 last season and won the Anne Arundel County title. “These guys have tasted success and they don’t want a drop off.”
Rock League Championship
at High Point
Bishop Ireton (Va.) 50, Arundel 36
Bishop Ireton: Blount 1, Senft 4, Moseh 7, Khouri 12, Brooks 16, Holland 7, Green 3. Totals 15 16-21 50.
Arundel: Mack 8, Lewis-Canales 5, Oliphant 6, Hill 6, Dunbar 7, Carroll 2, Wells 2. Totals 12 10-11 36.
Halftime: Bishop Ireton 16, Arundel 12