Marriotts Ridge stops No. 13 Atholton’s unbeaten streak, claims top spot in Howard County boys hoops; Curtin scores 29 (VIDEO HERE!)

Patrick Curtin and CJ Kocak helped put Marriotts Ridge in first place in Howard County boys basketball Thursday. Curtin, a freshman, finished with 29 points while Kocak had 10 points in his final regular season home as the Mustangs defeated previously undefeated and 13th-ranked Atholton, 59-51, in Marriottsville.

by Derek Toney

This time a year ago, the only basketball CJ Kocak experienced was playing pickup at an indoor facility or neighborhood playground. Kocak couldn’t wait for the opportunity to again play for Marriotts Ridge High after the 2020-21 season was canceled due to COVID-19.

Thursday, on Senior Day, Kocak and the Mustangs seized the moment. Marriotts Ridge defeated previously undefeated and 13th-ranked Atholton, 59-51, in a Howard County boys basketball contest in Marriottsville.

Patrick Curtin scored a game-high 29 points for Mustangs (11-1 overall, 10-1 Howard), and junior Kaden Bryan added 11. Calendar led Atholton (11-1, 10-1 Howard) with 18 points, and Micah Walton-Smith finished with 17.

The Mustangs led by as many as 17 points before repelling a fourth quarter charge by Atholton to claim the inside track to the Howard County championship. Marriotts Ridge can win the title with victories at Long Reach and Mount Hebron next week.

With a large student section behind their bench, many wearing a sports jacket and tie, the Mustangs took care of business Thursday.

“This group is probably in my 20 years of coaching one of the closest knit groups I’ve been around,” said Marriotts Ridge coach Seth Willingham. “They cared about each other…they were relaxed in the locker room before the game and I told them I didn’t want to make too many adjustments to what they do, I want to play loose and play together.”

“It was tough junior year not having a season,” said Kocak, who finished with 10 points Thursday. “Basketball is my main thing.”

Building a 22-19 halftime advantage after a slow start, Kocak dropped a 3-pointer to start the second half and Marriotts Ridge took over. The Mustangs, behind Curtin, went on an 8-0 run, pushing a 31-26 lead into 39-26.

Curtin, a precocious 6-foot-2 freshman, grabbed a missed free throw, scored and was fouled. He completed the 3-point play, then followed an Atholton turnover, with a 25-foot dagger, for a 13-point advantage with 2:32 left in the third.

Curtin, who scored 21 points in the second half, said Marriotts Ridge’s defense helped get the offense adjusted.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We just stuck to our defense and knew the offense would come,” said Curtin. “We’re a firepower team and we knew we got into transition, it would lead to bucket after bucket.”

“Our main focus was to get the ball into the high post and then when it collapses look to kick it out,” said Willingham. “Not let the ball stick and make the zone move. They did a great job of that.”

The lead grew to 41-26 as Mike White dropped a pass to Bryan in the paint. Kocak, after several pass exchanges with Curtin on the perimeter, fired a pass inside to Farrall for a short jumper, making it 43-28. Curtin followed with a transition score with three seconds remaining in the third quarter, giving Marriotts Ridge a commanding 17-point advantage.

Atholton mounted a comeback in the fourth. Walton-Smith, who scored xx points in the quarter, pulled the Raiders to 49-42 on a 3-pointer with 2:50 remaining in regulation. 

Curtin, who hit four 3-pointer, calmly answered with a 30-foot dagger near the Mustangs’ bench. Atholton drew to 54-48 with 40 seconds to play, but Marriotts Ridge finished off the victory from the free throw line.

It was the first loss in 19 games, dating back to 2020 for Atholton, which reached the 3A state final four in 2020. The remainder of the 2020 state tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.

“Shots didn’t fall and that happens sometimes,” said Atholton coach Jared Albert. “The kids battle back through a lot of adversity. I’m proud of that.”

Thursday marked the final home for Kolcak, Ethan Berry, Jordan Peguese and Casey Pung. Willingham, who won a girls state championship at Oakland Mills and coached boys teams at Oakland Mills and Howard, recently took over as Mustangs’ coach after Marcus Lewis left to become the new athletic director at Reservoir.

“I knew the talent we had coming in and knew we would be really strong,” said Kocak. “It was sad when Coach Lewis left but Coach Willingham stepped right in. He just rallied us together and we’re stronger than we’ve ever been.”

 Marriotts Ridge 59, No. 13 Atholton 51

Atholton – Calendar 18, Micah Walton-Smith 17, Rabb 8, Murray 3, DeLeon 2, McCarty 2, Laraway 1. Totals 20 4-12 51.

Marriotts Ridge – Curtin 29, Bryan 11, Kolcak 10, Farrall 4, Pung 3, White 2. Totals 18 18-26 59.

Atholton  10 9 9 23 – 51

Marriotts Ridge 9 13 23 14 – 59