Governors event too big a Challenge for Bayside
Bayside goes 5-25 in 38th annual event
SALISBURY — Since 1981, the Christmas break has afforded local high school basketball teams a chance to keep their skills honed perhaps a bit more sharply than simply be spending nearly two weeks practicing.
The Governors Challenge, begun all those years ago as a Bayside-versus-Henlopen Conference event, began with five teams from this area, plus five Delaware teams, in a battle for bragging rights. The Salisbury 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 two-hour-ish trip to Salisbury.
Former Super Bowl champ Antwan Randle-El coached a team in the Challenge this year. Dozens of college-bound future stars, including young men hoping to play in The League 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 barber shop 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 ever y 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 two-day brackets for all involved, essentially divided the event in to a first and second half, and neither went well for the 15 boys’ squads from the Bayside which took part.
The first day of the first half, the Bayside took it on the chin. Crisfield, James M. Bennett, Mardela, Parkside, Queen Anne’s, Stephen Decatur, and Washington High all took losses. Only Snow Hill High, with an 80-53 blowout of Indian River, Del., came out on top during Day 1, Dec. 26.
Queen Anne’s County High, 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 QA.
Day 2 was a bit better for the Bayside, with Crisfield (which had 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, thus went 1-1 in the event.
Mardela, a team which 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 Warriros a tournament split.
Stephen Decatur High, 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 High, arguably the team to beat in the conference and perhaps the Class 2A East when the playoffs come 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 at Wi-Hi (the event takes place at not just the Civic Center, but at UMES in Princess Anne, and all three high schools in Salisbury) to Sussex Tech.
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 4:44 of play erased a narrow Viking lead and gave the Bruins a win.
No Bayside Conference boys’ basketball team won on Friday; Pocomoke, the lone South 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; 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, Pa., 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 regular-season 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.
Kent County’s JayShaun Freeman sinks a three-pointer in 53-47 loss to Hammond High School Friday, Dec. 28, in the Governor’s Challenge in Salisbury. Freeman led the Trojans with 19 points. Ny’Tre Green added 17 points.
Cambridge-South Dorchester’s Davion Ralph scores in the paint against Forest Park (Va.) in a 67-60 loss Friday, Dec. 28, in the Governor’s Challenge in Salisbury. Ralph led the Vikings with 24 points. Keshawn Potter added 12 points.