Little guy, really big game
Standing just 5-foot-6, Patterson High boys’ basketball Aquille Carr has cast an impressive shadow on the area’s basketball scene. In his freshman season, Carr averaged 25.5 points, eight assists and 5.3 steals and was named national freshman of the year by MaxPreps.
Arguably the biggest moment of his campaign was a dunk against City College’s Nick Faust that sent cellphones ringing and numerous text messages around Baltimore City gymnasiums. He’s averaging nearly 30 points for the No. 2 Clippers this season including a 57-point explosion against Forest Park.
His ability to drop jumpers from 25 feet or balance his small frame against bigger defenders on drives to the basket is something to behold. Every gym he plays in around Baltimore City is often packed.
Baltimore high school basketball has had its share of pint size game changers over the last 30 years like Tyrone “Muggsy” Bogues (Dunbar) and Shawnta Rogers (Lake Clifton). Add Carr to the list.
The Hall rises again
After giving instructions during a timeout of its battle with defending champ St. Frances Academy in the Baltimore Catholic League semifinals, Calvert Hall College coach John Bauersfeld looked at his seniors.
“It’s your time, I can’t do it for you,” Bauersfeld recollected a couple of days later. It was the proverbial fork in the road for the Cardinals’ quartet of Jon Graham, Kyle Wise, Damien Lee and Donta Jackson, who’ve come up short in big games against the Panthers over the past couple of seasons.
Calvert Hall responded, ending St. Frances’ two-year run as BCL champions. The following night in the finals at Reitz Arena, the Cardinals overcame a 17-point deficit against Mount St. Joseph for 44-42 victory. It was the Cardinals’ first BCL crown since 1984 when they were the dominant force in Baltimore basketball along with Dunbar.
In every corner of Reitz Arena, Calvert Hall alumni celebrated. But there was no one more prouder than a teary-eyed Mark Amatucci, the architect of Calvert Hall’s powerhouse teams of the 1980s, who hugged Bauersfeld like a father to his son. Four seasons ago, Amatucci selected his former player to be his successor on the bench.
Unlikely final Crusade
A topsy-turvy spring in the one of the nation’s top high school leagues presented long-time rivals Boys’ Latin and St. Paul’s in the MIAA A Conference finale. The teams went three overtimes during the regular season with the Lakers emerging victorious after a furious rally by St. Paul’s in regulation. It had all the makings of another classic.
It wasn’t. In one of the most lopsided title games in recent years, St. Paul’s throttled the Lakers, 17-7, to win the PNC Bank/MIAA A trophy at Unitas Stadium.
The Brooklandville school ran off nine unanswered scores in the second half en route to their first league crown since 2004, and second in the MIAA era. It was the record 25th championship for the Crusaders, dating back to the days of the Maryland Scholastic Association (MSA).
“These boys played with some heart, emotion and togetherness,” said St. Paul’s coach Rick Brocato, who his first title as a coach after being an assistant on several Crusader title squads. “That second half you saw a buzz saw come out and take the game over. They were determined we were going home with the trophy tonight. We really felt confident.”
With a roster of underclassmen and a new coach, conventional thought was Gilman School would be ready in 2011 to challenge Calvert Hall for the MIAA A championship. The Greyhounds had other ideas.
A year removed from a 3-16 campaign, the Roland Park school ended the Cardinals’ five-year title reign. Under former Oriole Larry Sheets, Gilman went a school-record 27-5 including 10 straight to close the season.
In the title clinching 10-8 victory over the Cardinals at Ripken Stadium, Gilman overcame a 45-minute start delay because of a broken water pipe in the outfield, a 90-minute rain delay and a 5-0 deficit. Ryan Ripken, one of several poised sophomores, drove in four runs.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Ripken. “Everyone has been in this since our first practice on February 18. Everyone bought in.”
The Wright stuff
With a pair of Division I prospects and a battle-tested roster, anything less than a celebration at Ripken Stadium in the state finals would be a failure for C. Milton Wright High baseball team. The Harford County school lived up to its lofty expectations, going 23-0 and winning the Class 3A state championship.
Behind arguably the area’s best pitching combo in Brad Markey and Bobby Ruse, the Mustangs collected non-league victories over perennial Anne Arundel County powerhouses Severna Park (2009 Class 4A champs) and Arundel, and MIAA A finalist Cardinal Gibbons before running through the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference regular season.
Markey, the area’s top player now at Georgia Tech, and Ruse (Maryland) were the backbone of a pitching staff that posted a 1.08 earned run average. The Mustangs broke a four-decade long state record with 12 shutouts.
Game for the ages
The volleyball region title game between Centennial and River Hill had all the ingredients for a classic. Each spent time at No. 1 in VSN’s Top 20. The teams split in the regular season.
For more than two hours in front of packed house at Centennial, the Eagles and Hawks engaged in a volleyball opera played out over five compelling sets. Trailing 2-1, Centennial won the fourth set to force the deciding fifth set.
A point away from elimination, River Hill battled back to tie at 14 to force deuce. The teams went to deuce nine times before the No. 1 Eagles finally secured victory over No. 3 Hawks, 17-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-23 and 25-23.
From the support of the fans and parents on both sides to the camaraderie between the rival players afterwards, it was a true snapshot of what high school athletics are all about.
Room for two in the trophy case
Howard County was front and center at the state field hockey championships as Glenelg High and River Hill captured titles at Washington College.
Behind a penalty stroke by P
auline Shih, River Hill defeated North Harford, 1-0, in the Class 3A finals. It was the first championship for the Clarksville school and first for Howard County since Centennial in 1995.
Hours later, Glenelg ended years of disappointment with a 2-1 victory over Century in the Class 2A title game. It was the Gladiators first state crown in 13 trips to the state Final Four.
Led by Varsity Sports Network’s player of the year Alyssa Parker, Glenelg (19-1) finished atop VSN’s Top 20 poll. One of its victories came against then-No. 1 Severna Park in the District V championship game where Falcons coach Lil Shelton provided Howard County a little motivation.
“This is just a tune-up for the states,” Falcons coach Lil Shelton said to the Annapolis Capital. “That’s what I just emphasized. I said, ‘This is just an insignificant game. It’s nice to win: Whoopee. We’re better than Howard County.’ But that’s all it’s good for, really, and another feather in our hat. But who needs feathers? I told the girls, ‘We don’t have room for that trophy in our trophy case anyway.'”
Picture on the wall
A sign reading “Picture on the Wall” was inside of Towson High’s gymnasium during the fall. It served as a reminder to the Generals’ volleyball team which has been chasing a state crown the past several seasons.
Though their coach was a key clog on the school’s last title squad, the players said they put pressure on themselves to win another and get a picture alongside the other championship team in the hallway outside the gym. There was no greater pressure for the Generals than a 2-0 deficit to No. 1 Centennial in the Class 3A title game at the University of Maryland.
Confronted with the deficit as well as Centennial’s championship aura, Towson didn’t blink, taking a five-set decision for the Generals’ first title since 2001. They did it with a tenacious digging exhibition against the power hitting Eagles, whose hope for a 15th state title crumbled amid a host of serving errors.
“I was starting to get so angry, I was not going to let them do that to us again,” said Generals junior hitter Lauren Bosse, referring back to her freshman campaign in 2008 when Centennial swept the Generals in the 3A state finals. Bosse led the title game comeback with 18 kills.
“I can’t believe we won. Two-0 against Centennial is something really hard to come back from,” said Towson coach Emily Berman. “We made them [Centennial] work, that’s what we do. We wear them down until there’s no other option and they’re done fighting.”
The Hall rises again, Part II
When Calvert Hall football coach Donald Davis was told his team would be in the top three of Varsity Sports Network’s metro area preseason Top 20 back in early August, he didn’t understand why.
“How can we be top three team and we haven’t even beaten St. John’s,” said Davis referring to the Cardinals’ six-game losing to the District program. A couple of weeks later, Calvert Hall ended the skid, 24-7. It would be the start of something really big for the LaSalle Road school.
Led by senior defenders Dan Yarborough and Adrian Amos and a young explosive offensive unit, the Cardinals went 11-1 in the fall, capturing their first championship since 1982. Calvert Hall handed then-No. 1 Gilman School its only area loss in front of audience of more than 4,000 at Russo Stadium.
The Cardinals’ only loss came a week later against Georgetown Prep, falling a couple of yards short in a 17-14 decision, but they didn’t lose another game, routing rival Loyola Blakefield in the Turkey Bowl at M & T Bank Stadium to finish atop the final VSN and state media polls.
A Wild-e run
Wilde Lake High winning a state football championship appeared unlikely after losing its final regular season game. In a field including Damascus of Montgomery County, defending state champ Frederick County’s Linganore, Quince Orchard and Howard County league rival River Hill, the Wildecats were an afterthought.
Well, a funny thing happened. The Howard County school won three road games to reach the Class 3A state finals M & T Bank Stadium where Wilde Lake topped another upstart Franklin, in an all-Baltimore area contest.
Using a deep running attack and solid defensive play, Wilde Lake avenged its regular season finale loss to Atholton in the opening round of the East Region playoffs before ending River Hill’s streak of five straight region crowns with an overtime decision. The Wildecats pulled off the upset of the postseason, stunning Damascus, then the state’s No. 1 team, in the state semifinals.
“After the loss to Atholton we were excited to be one of the top 16 in the state, but the kids made the commitment to be one of the top eight,” said Wilde Lake coach Mike Harrison, in his second season succeeding legendary coach Doug DuVall. “We get a chance to play River Hill again and ‘hey, we’d like to be one of the top four teams in the state,’ and they practiced harder. Going into Damascus, you saw it in their eyes they didn’t realize they were playing a team the caliber of a Damascus, and all of the sudden they were one of the best two teams in the state.
They came in here tonight and they wanted to be No. 1, and I think it was their character, their heart, their dedication and determination and was able to pull this thing off.”