Key returners expected to power Elkton boys’ basketball
— Last winter, Charlie Givens found himself in an unfamiliar position.
After 41 years and 400-plus wins on the Perryville sideline, the celebrated head coach took over the Elkton boys’ basketball team, spending the opening months of the 2017-18 season getting to know his new players while instilling a new culture into a program reeling from a postgame altercation that occurred the previous postseason.
His efforts produced an extended playoff run and a heartbreaking loss to Harford Tech in the 2A East Region Section I Final, netting the longtime skipper All-County Coach of the Year honors.
“I’m feeling good about it. The kids know what my expectations are and I know what expectations I can give to them,” Givens said. “We’ll have a good season, no doubt. I guess the prize is at the end of the season, and you want to be prepped when that time comes.”
Following the graduation of AllCounty contributors Ryan Thompson and Raiquon Estep and honorable mention forward Kyle Spencer, Givens will rely on a different cast of players to lead the Golden Elks this winter.
Reigning honorable mention senior guard/forward Dah’mear Triplett (10 points, four rebounds, two steals per game) and junior guards Trevin Ewing,
Farad Stephens and Marquis Battle return after breakout campaigns a year ago. Senior Brandon McMichael and junior guard Raykeen Croxsell will also see increased playing time after holding bench roles last season, while Givens expects 6-foot-7 forward Stuart Moncrief and 6-foot-4 forward/guard Mitchell Milker to contribute after not playing varsity a year ago.
“My [philosophy] has always been, and the kids know this, is to play defense and do everything off the defense. If that allows us to get some quick baskets, that’s fine. Working with the kids, I’m trying to continue that style of play,” Givens said. “Going into the season, that’s my desire, that’s my goal. Play the same way — up tempo.”
Elkton (14-7 last season) aims to repeat last year’s success in which it rolled to a top seed in the region playoffs and home-court advantage through the sectional tournament. What it doesn’t want to replicate is a third-straight loss in the section final.
Last year’s buzzer-beater defeat to rival Harford Tech marked the second straight year the Elks were ousted from the postseason by the Cobras.
“Hopefully, the guys have the same mindset. I thought they played Harford Tech very, very tough the last game of the season. I was very confident,” Givens said. “Hopefully, I’ll be confident with the group that I have this year.”
Grimes expects youthful Indians to have balanced attack
All-County center Tim Webster was one of nine seniors that graduated from last year’s North East boys’ basketball team — a program that earned homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs and won a postseason contest for a second-straight season.
With only two returning players, head coach Seth Grimes is tasked with getting a youthful roster prepared for the grind of the varsity schedule.
“I think the speed of the game is going to be some of the biggest factors that we have. There’s a lot of up and coming JV kids that are juniors, Matt Wallace is a sophomore that’s up with me, and I think it’s a good thing that they have some congruence together. They’ve started on JV together, so I think that helps for the chemistr y side of it,” Grimes said. “But, I think with the system and the speed that varsity brings, we’re going to have to adjust game by game to what ever y team brings to us.”
Senior guard Pat O’Brien and senior for ward Matt Discuillo are the lone returners from last year’s Indians team that finished the season with doubledigit wins.
“Both have stepped up to be team leaders thus far through tryouts and early practices,” Grimes said. “They have a good grasp of the system already, so they’re doing a good job of teaching everybody else what we’re going through.”
Not having Webster in the paint after he finished last season as the county’s only player to average a double-double per contest, will alter the way Grimes attacks teams in 2018-19.
“It’s not going to be just one guy.
This year is going to be different players stepping up throughout different games. If we can grow throughout the season and everybody picks up and plays to their ability, I think we’re going to be a pretty balanced team,” Grimes said. “I don’t think you’re going to see one or two guys trying to take over. I think it’s going to have to be a complete team effort for us to stay successful.”
Tigers hope growing pains turn into wins
A year ago, the Rising Sun boys’ basketball team lost six games by four points or less as it suffered through a one-win campaign
Walker is back, and so is nearly ever y player from last season’s roster, providing the program with confidence that this year’s Tigers team can turn those narrow defeats in to victories.
“Certainly, you hope that some extra experience [will make a difference] this year. I’m excited. It’s a good group of boys,” Walker said. “I have a lot of optimism going into this year.”
Walkers’ biggest test may be replacing the production of graduated All-County forward Ethan Greene, who led the county with 18 points per game and brought down nine rebounds per contest.
“Ethan, we’re going to miss him for sure,” Walker said. “Last year, we had two seniors. This year, we have eight or nine, so we have a much more tenured group, and it should be a lot more balanced.”
Among the returners is senior Trey Walker, who will suit up after earning honorable mention accolades a year ago. Returning seniors Mike Fox, Trent Moore, Eric Farrell will also be leaned on to provide heavy minutes, while several rising juniors should also feature into the rotation.
The leading question mark will be at center, where a team, known for having talented big men — including former AllCounty forwards Curtis Cox
(2017), Will Farrington (2016), Kevin Alkinburg (2015) and Brandon Aro (2014), will look to a pair of contributors to log minutes under the basket.
“We certainly don’t have a Curtis Cox — a 6-foot-6 big — but we do have Trent Moore. Not quite sure his height, but he’s a big man and very athletic. Zach Osborne is a junior for us and he’s got some height,” Walker added. “Overall, I think we’ll be a little more taller than we were last year, but not necessarily have one big dominant player.”
The 1A boys’ basketball preview featuring Perryville and Bohemia Manor will publish Friday, Dec. 7.
Guard Marquis Battle (2) is one of several key returners for the Elkton boys’ basketball team. North East, meanwhile, must overcome the graduation of nine seniors, including All-County center Tim Webster (33).