The Washington Post
Warriors do it with defense to take home the title
Logan Suber fell hard to the floor and popped right back up, flexing his arms and letting out a celebratory scream. For someone who had just been bowled over by a hard-charging guard, the Mt. Zion Prep junior looked unreasonably ecstatic.
His Warriors had played 37 games before Monday night’s Maryland Private School State Basketball Tournament championship game at Takoma Academy, and not many of them had been defensive slugfests. But it hadn’t taken long for the Warriors to realize that, to beat Shabach Christian and win the title, they were going to have to play physical, defensive basketball.
Suber’s timely charge with 30 seconds left and his team up three points capped a stellar defensive performance during a 41-36 win in which Mt. Zion held Shabach to five points in the fourth quarter.
“I had taken another charge earlier in the night, and that one really hurt,” Suber said. “That second came in the chest, and I had way more adrenaline going. It felt good.”
Mt. Zion, based in Lanham, became the first champion of this inaugural event, which was set up to give Maryland private schools a chance to compete in the postseason beyond conference play.
Mt. Zion (27-11) entered the 12-team tournament as the No. 9 seed but upset Good Counsel of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference in the first round. In a quarterfinal, the Warriors toppled Interstate Athletic Conference champion Bullis, the No. 1 seed. In a semifinal, they beat Bishop Mcnamara, another WCAC power.
They had gotten hot at the right time, and their final test was a Shabach team that had defeated them twice. The first loss came early in the season, and the second was in late January.
“We faced them at the beginning and the middle of the season,” Suber said. “We got them again tonight, and we got over them.”
Mt. Zion trailed by six at halftime, but that wasn’t a problem — it trailed at halftime in each of the previous three games. It tied the score at 31 with just under six minutes remaining, and a physical game turned up another notch from there.
Suber hit a floater to give his team a 33-31 lead with three minutes remaining. It turned out to be the final field goal of the game; the teams traded free throws down the stretch. Suber’s charge led to a four-point lead that, in a game defined by defense, was enough to last.
“We knew we had to bring our ‘A’ game for those guys, whatever that looked like,” Mt. Zion Coach Quinton Dulic said. “It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.”