Gov­er­nor’s event too big a chal­lenge for Bay­side

Dorchester Star - - SPORTS - DAVID INSLEY Fol­low me on Twit­ter: @ SD­Bay­sideSports

SAL­IS­BURY — Since 1981, the Christ­mas break has af­forded lo­cal high school bas­ket­ball teams a chance to keep their skills honed be­yond spend­ing nearly two weeks prac­tic­ing.

The Gov­er­nor’s Chal­lenge, which be­gun all those years ago as a Bay­side Con­fer­ence vs. Hen­lopen Con­fer­ence event, ini­tially of­fered five teams from this area, plus five Delaware teams, in a bat­tle for brag­ging rights. The Sal­is­bur y Li­ons Club spon­sored it un­til less than a decade ago, when Wi­comico County es­sen­tially took things over, and it be­came a bit big­ger.

Then a lot big­ger. Then an enor­mous thing, bal­loon­ing from two days to four.

Now the Chal­lenge is the big­gest hol­i­day hoops tour­na­ment in the na­tion. That’s right, the en­tire coun­try, sur­pass­ing all oth­ers as of 2017. Around 120 teams are now on board, up and down the East Coast and all the way to Cal­i­for­nia. A fan can come to the Wi­comico Youth and Civic Cen­ter and watch as many as 14 games in a day, so if you like hoops, it’s right up your al­ley.

There was plenty to take in, off and on the court.

On Thurs­day, fans got to see for­mer Wash­ing­ton Bul­lets (later Wiz­ards) cen­ter Ghe­o­rghe Mure­san, all 7-foot-7 of him, sit­ting in the stands. Mure­san, who’s tied with Manute Bol as the tallest ever to play in the NBA, lives in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. sub­urbs now, and made the twohour-ish trip to Sal­is­bury.

For­mer Su­per Bowl champ Ant­waan Ran­dle-El coached a team in the Chal­lenge this year. Dozens of col­lege-bound fu­ture stars, in­clud­ing young men hop­ing to play in the NBA one day, were to be found, one team so laden with tal­ent that nearly its en­tire ros­ter were listed as “play­ers to watch.”

An im­promptu bar­ber­shop set up at the Civic Cen­ter al­lowed play­ers to rock a new hair­style be­fore tak­ing to one of two courts. There were ei­ther skills, 3-point shoot­ing, or dunk­ing com­pe­ti­tions ev­ery sin­gle night. Hon­estly, I’m not nearly the bas­ket­ball fan some are, and I en­joyed the heck out of it.

The Bay­side’s boys’ hoops teams, though, didn’t have quite so much fun, and in ret­ro­spect, per­haps the best part of the event this year for the con­fer­ence is that the games don’t count for play­off seed­ing pur­poses.

Over the course of this year’s four-day event, the con­fer­ence had a very rough show­ing. The for­mat, es­sen­tially com­pris­ing a pair of two­day brack­ets for all in­volved, di­vided the event in to a first and sec­ond half, and nei­ther went well for the 15 boys’ squads from the Bay­side.

The first day of the first half, the Bay­side took it on the chin. Cr­is­field, James M. Ben­nett, Mardela, Park­side, Queen Anne’s County, Stephen De­catur, and Wash­ing­ton high schools all took losses. Only Snow Hill, with an 80-53 blowout of In­dian River (Del.), came out on top dur­ing Day 1, Dec. 26.

Queen Anne’s, the only North team tak­ing part in the first two days of the event, lost 66-40 in the gym at Wi-Hi against Kempsville (Va.) Ice-cold shoot­ing (the Li­ons were just 16-for-67, or 24 per­cent, from the floor) was a huge fac­tor in the loss for Queen Anne’s.

Day 2 was a bit bet­ter for the Bay­side, with Cr­is­field — which fought hard but lost by dou­ble dig­its to peren­nial Bal­ti­more pow­er­house Dun­bar — pick­ing up a con­so­la­tion-round win. The Crab­bers, thought by some to be the best Class 1A team in the con­fer­ence, went 1-1 in the event.

Mardela, a team that might not crack the up­per ech­e­lon in the con­fer­ence this year, but which is def­i­nitely on the way up un­der new coach Jer­michael Mitchell, also picked up a Day 2 con­so­la­tion win. The 87-72 win over King’s Chris­tian Academy, pow­ered by Syncere Pin­kett’s 40 points, gave the War­riors a tour­na­ment split.

Stephen De­catur, which lost to Tall­wood (Va.), by 16 points on the first day of play, de­feated Lau­rel (Del.), 67-47, on Thurs­day to go 1-1.

James M. Ben­nett, Park­side, and Wash­ing­ton all went 0-2 in the first two-day span of the Chal­lenge.

On Thurs­day, as Day 2 came to a close, Wi­comico, ar­guably the team to beat in the con­fer­ence and per­haps the Class 2A East when the play­offs ar­rive at the end of Fe­bru­ary, ran into a buz­z­saw in the form of El­iz­a­beth (N.J.).

Los­ing the war on the glass, 40-25, the In­di­ans fin­ished with their low­est score, well, since I can re­mem­ber, los­ing to the Min­ute­men, 61-26. Jaden Baker had 13 in the loss.

Fri­day brought in the sec­ond round of two-day tour­na­ments, and again, the Bay­side had a tough time. Kent County, Colonel Richard­son, and Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester all lost in 10 a.m. open­ers, while Eas­ton fell in its 1:30 p.m. con­test, and North Caro­line lost by 31 points in the night­cap to Sus­sex Tech, played in Wi-Hi’s gym. The event takes place at not just the Civic Cen­ter, but at Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, and all three high schools in Sal­is­bury.

C-SD, in its 67-60 loss to For­est Park (Va.), got 24 points from Davion Ralph, a game high, but a 14-6 run in the fi­nal 4 min­utes, 44 sec­onds of play er­ased a nar­row Vik­ing lead and gave the Bru­ins a win.

No Bay­side Con­fer­ence team won on Fri­day. Pocomoke, the lone South Bay­side team play­ing that day, fell 69-45 at the hands of Os­bourn Park High, from Manas­sas, Va.

Satur­day morn­ing, most of the North’s teams played at James M. Ben­nett High, with only Eas­ton at the Civic Cen­ter. The War­riors lost, 69-45, to The­dor Roo­sevelt (D.C.) High, 65-49, to fin­ish the tour­na­ment 0-2. La­mont Pow­ell Jr.’s 12 points led the Eas­ton ef­fort, while Jae­don Cop­per added 10.

C-SD lost to Ce­sar Chavez to open the day’s slate of games at J.M. Ben­nett, and then Colonel fell to Calvert.

Kent County pro­vided a bright spot to the North’s day, thanks to a mon­ster per­for­mance from ju­nior JayShaun Free­man to es­cape the tour­na­ment with a 1-1 split. Free­man, who had a team-high 19 in Fri­day’s loss to Ham­mond, burned the nets for 37 points Satur­day, as the Tro­jans edged Carver School of En­gi­neer­ing and Science, from Philadel­phia, 70-69.

That only left Wi-Hi and North Caro­line, both play­ing in 5 p.m. con­tests. At Ben­nett, the Bull­dogs lost to New Town; Wi-Hi fell at the Civic Cen­ter, 84-55, to Olympic High, from Char­lotte, N.C. Wi­comico, which swept two tour­na­ment games last year on the way to a 22-1 sea­son, fin­ished the tour­na­ment 0-2, as did the Bull­dogs, who knocked Wi-Hi out of the play­offs last win­ter.

Dur­ing the course of the tour­na­ment, the Bay­side went a sickly 5-25, for a win­ning per­cent­age of just .167.

The Bay­side re­turns to reg­u­larsea­son play this week. C-SD starts things with a game on Jan. 2 at Saints Peter and Paul. The rest of the con­fer­ence gets back on the hard­wood the next night.

PHOTO BY DUSTIN HOLT

Cam­bridge-South Dorch­ester’s Davion Ralph scores in the paint against For­est Park (Va.) in a 67-60 loss Fri­day in the Gov­er­nor’s Chal­lenge in Sal­is­bury. Ralph led the Vik­ings with 24 points. Ke­shawn Pot­ter added 12 points.

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