Atholton pushes past Kenwood for return trip to 3A state boys basketball semifinals; Callendar scores 30


Behind the efforts of Zach Callendar, Atholton boys basketball is headed back to the Class 3A state semifinals. The senior guard scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the second half as the Raiders defeated Kenwood in a state quarterfinal contest in Howard County Friday evening.


by James Peters

Facing a ball-hawking man-to-man defense that was causing much havoc in the first half of Friday’s 3A state quarterfinal contest, the Atholton High’s boys basketball team decided to take the page out of the Utah Jazz playbook from the John Stockon and Karl Malone era.

In this case, however, the pick-and roll-employed by the Raiders did not free up the big man, in this case, Arya Parekh, for numerous offensive looks, but guard Zach Callender, who delivered 22 of his game-high 30 points in the second half to lead host Atholton to a 62-55 victory and a trip to the 3A state semifinals.

“We started utilizing it more in the second half.,” Callender said. “Once we saw that it was working, we just kept going with it and do what we do best. I had to hit a couple of clutch shots, and I’m glad I did. I’m glad I got the team the (victory).”

While the Stockton-to-Malone combination turned Malone into a Hall of Fame scorer and Stockton into the NBA’s all-time assist leader, it allowed Callender to match up one-on-one with Kenwood’s forwards, who the left-handed senior guard constantly beat to the rim for a layup, a foul, or both. He also knocked down four 3-pointers, two in each half.

“(Callender), he’s a really good player,” said Kenwood coach Predrag Durkovic, whose squad finished at 18-5. “We just could not figure out how to hedge the screen, and he was just attacking. When he got into the paint, he was too deep, and he got a few and ones and he got comfortable (at the free throw line). The first four minutes of the third quarter, when he attacked the middle, that was the difference-maker.”

The Raiders trailed 32-25 heading into the third quarter, but they surged to a 36-32 advantage roughly 3 ½ minutes into the second half through an 11-0 run that included back-to-back close-range baskets by Parekh and  Micah Walton-Smith, as well as a pull-up baseline jumper and step-back 3-pointer by Callender. 

On the strength of a 3-pointer by Noah Dodson and a backdoor cut and layup by Austin Mbuyi (13 points), the Bluebirds tied the contest at 42-all to end the third quarter. The game remained close until the final stages behind 13 points from Callender for the Raiders.

Some timely baskets by Kenwood forwards Casey Walker and Devin Dangerfield, who exploited the middle of Atholton’s 2-3 zone that was extended to stop their opponent’s scorching first half 3-point shooting that consisted of eight triples, some from well beyond the 3-pointer arc.

“We knocked down some 3-pointers, which I was worried about because you can’t sustain that kind of tempo the entire game, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Durkovic, whose squad was limited to a trio of 3-pointers in the second half. “ They’re long and credit to them; they played good defense, and we battled. I’m so proud of the kids.”

Atholton’s defense, in fact, held Kenwood scoreless the final 2-plus minutes of the game, including forcing a turnover by Dodson with under a minute left. Dodson was then forced to foul Callender with 33 seconds left and the Raiders holding a 56-55 lead. Callender made four straight 1-and-1 free throws in the closing seconds after missing his first four of the game. Parekh capped the game’s scoring with a pair of double bonus free throws with seven seconds left.

“They’re a great shooting team,” Parekh said. “We didn’t realize that coming into the game. We adapted in the game, started coming out on the 3-pointer and taking away that scoring opportunity.

“Looking at their (lack of) size, we realized we could really dominate on the pick and roll and we started running that play. Drives were there; pick and rolls were there.”

The two squads were deadlocked at 10 after one quarter, but the Bluebirds netted six 3-pointers in the second quarter to open up the 32-25 halftime lead. Mbuyi knocked down three of those shots with his high arcing shot while Devin Adams, Jr. contributed 10 of his team-high 18 points in the first 16 minutes of play.

“We knocked down some 3-pointers, which I was worried about because you can’t sustain that kind of tempo the entire game, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Durkovic, whose squad was limited to a trio of 3-pointers in the second half. “ They’re long and credit to them; they played good defense, and we battled. I’m so proud of the kids.”

Class 3A state quarterfinal

Atholton 62, Kenwood 55

Kenwood – Devin Adams, Jr. 18, Noah Dodson 6, Denis Njoroge 6, Austin Mbuyi 13, Casey Walker 8, Devin Dangerfield 4. Totals: 20 4-4 55. 

Atholton – Ayyub Rabb 10, Micah Walton-Smith 8, Zach Callender 30, Arya Parekh 6, Mason Murray 3, Ayinde Deleon 2, Sean Boulle 3. Totals: 22 12-16 62.

Kenwood 10 22 10 13 – 55

Atholton 10 15 17 20 – 62