Rock Creek Christian (Md.) 2020 guard Delonnie Hunt. [KYLE MCFADDEN]
SALISBURY, MD - Coming off two tough losses in as many days, coach Lafayette Dublin and Rock Creek Christian Academy got back on track Sunday with a 71-59 win over Beckley Prep (WV) in the Governor’s Challenge at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center.
It marked the third game in as many days for RCCA, which lost by eight points on Friday and by four in overtime Saturday at Slam Dunk To the Beach as defensive lapses proved to be too costly.
When asked what was different about his team Sunday compared to the past two days, Dublin said, “Defense and staying the course. Just because they go up, you continue to play and not relax when you get a 10-point lead. … Biggest thing today was staying consistent on defense.”
Behind 2020 guard Delonnie Hunt (16 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists), RCCA held Beckley Prep to 38 percent from the floor and 25 percent from deep.
“He’s our heart and soul,” Dublin said of Hunt.
“Everything was working,” Hunt added. “My guys were hitting shots, we were about to run our offense and execute well. We played a really tough opponent in my opinion and were able to pull away because of our game plan.”
RCCA jumped out to a 17-11 lead after one quarter, but then in the second, Beckley Prep chipped into the deficit, shaving RCCA’s lead to 34-29 at the half.
“It was a slow start, and there’s really no excuses but coming off two games down at Delaware and then to come travel down here, there’s a little fatigue factor,” Hunt said. “I feel like we have that mental toughness enough to pull it together in the second half to run away with it.”
RCCA employed a 1-3-1 in stretches of the second half, and its lead grew to 16 by the end of the third quarter.
“Sometimes you have to switch it up, make kids think a little bit, and then go back to it,” Dublin said.
As for Hunt’s recruitment, the lead guard hopes to make a decision in the spring of 2020. Hunt said UMBC and Binghamton are recruiting him the hardest.
“They like how even when I'm not scoring or not having my best game I’m always that positive leader that’s going to encourage my teammates to keep going even if they’re not hitting shots,” Hunt said. “They told me as long as I’m playing the right way it’s not about scoring 35 … and [to work on] outside shooting and build my body.”
When asked to describe his game to someone who hasn’t seen him play before, Hunt answered, “I would say I’m very crafty I want to get my teammates involved first and I feel like I feed off my teammates' energy. I feel like I’m able to affect the game on the defensive end even when I’m not scoring.”
Rock Creek finishes its two-day Governors Challenge swing Monday evening with a 5 p.m. meeting with South Shore (NY) at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center.
“We have to use this and build on it,” Dublin said. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
CEASER, MCKOY POWER RYKEN TO BRACKET TITLE
After a narrow two-point victory over Catholic Saturday in its bracket semifinal, 2021 guard Devin Ceaser and St. Mary’s Ryken knew they could bring more gumption to the table. So, the Knights challenged themselves to amplify its energy and effort, and on Sunday they met that desire.
Led by Ceaser (15 points and three assists) and 2021 guard Kenny McKoy (16 points on 7 of 8 shooting), Ryken upped the ante and rolled to the Bracket #14 title 69-50 over Veritas Collegiate (Va.).
“Yesterday, we played average, but today, we played almost to our full potential,” Ceaser said. “I think we have another gear we can definitely get to.”
St. Mary’s Ryken never trailed and blitzed Veritas from the outset, establishing a 22-9 lead after one quarter and a 38-19 advantage at the half.
For the game, the Knights out-scored Veritas on the fast break 16-8 and 12-4 in the second-chance department while allowing just 31 percent from the floor -- a defensive charge led by Ceaser, the crafty floor general, and McKoy, the strong-built guard.
“I tried coming out today with a lot of energy and put people in a cup,” McKoy said. “We came out hard and played scrappy, hard defense. … We tried to keep our foot on their throat.”
Ceaser, a 6-foot junior who considers himself “an all-around guard,” says he doesn’t have an offer, but is receiving heavy interest from Radford.
“They tell me they really like how I play,” Ceaser said. “They’re telling me to work on my shot, playing defense, and being more active.”
McKoy, meanwhile, says his recruitment is “going slow,” but hopes it’ll pick up when the Knights improve in Washington Catholic Athletic Conference play, which is, arguably, the fiercest competition in the country.
“I feel like I attack the basket well and good at running the floor,” McKoy said. “I also like the jumper 15 feet in.”
The Knights return to conference play on Friday, January 3, when they host Good Counsel.
“This is definitely a confidence booster right here,” Ceaser said. “We play a lot of heavy hitters every night [in the WCAC]. It’s pretty tough. But this is a confidence booster for 2020.”
Gilman (Md.) 2022 guard Christian Winborne. [MARCUS HELTON]
WINBORNE LEADS GILMAN RALLY
Gilman (Md.) 2022 guard Christian Winborne had one point at the half of his team’s matchup with Linden (NJ), and his team trailed by eight points.
It was a completely different story in the second half, as Winborne scored 18 of his team-high 19 points to help the Greyhounds rally back from 14 points down and stun Linden, 58-54.
“I mean, I think our team just picked up the intensity, to be honest with you.,” Winborne said. “Because once we picked up the intensity, it traveled towards everybody, and that made everybody play harder and want to get a win. [The mindset was] Don’t give up and keep fighting. Just don’t look at the scoreboard and just keep playing and see what happens.”
Gilman coach Will Bartz said it was good to see Winborne - who he said struggled in an opening loss to Landon on Saturday - bounce back.
“He’s worked so hard and this means so much to him that he was little down [Saturday] night,” he said. “And it was just kind of like, ‘Hey, our love for you is unconditional and our believe in you is unconditional. If you like a shot, we trust you.’ … We ran a set right out of halftime to try and get him an open look, but I thought it was like - you know, a shooter’s got to shoot out of a slump, and it was almost like every time he touched it, he thought, ‘I’ve got to get out of this slump.’ So it was good to see him relax and just be as good of a guard as he is, because he’s an incredibly talented kid and so much fun to coach.”
Winborne said there wasn’t any particular aspect of his offensive game that clicked on Sunday.
“I was playing off of my teammates, to be honest,” he said. “So, like, if the other team would collapse, I’d pass to my teammates, and if they weren’t I would shoot the ball.”
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Winborne has emerged as one of his team’s leaders despite his youth following the graduation of star Jalen Rucker and a knee injury to 2021 wing Malik Missouri.
“It’s not really that big of a deal,” he said. “I mean, I don’t really look at it like that; I just play as hard as I can and see what me and my team can do. That’s all I do.”
Bartz pointed to a corner 3-pointer by 2022 forward Jack Tortolani to close the third quarter as one of Sunday’s turning points. The shot cut a 12-point deficit to nine, and prepared the Greyhounds for one final closing run.
“There was a turning point about halfway through the fourth quarter where it just kind of came,” Bartz said. “You can complain about refs or anything, but none of that stuff mattered, it was just like, ‘Let’s focus on us and let’s play harder.’”
Overall, Bartz said he likes his team’s bond and unselfishness and hopes Sunday's win is one they can build on.
“It’s so refreshing and a blast to coach,” he said of this year's squad. “It’s still December and we’re just trying to push it one step further each time and this trip will hopefully do a bunch of those team building things for us.”
2020 guard Jordan Foster had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists for Gilman.
Amir Williams had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Linden, while Isaac Thompkins had 13.
BREA CARRIES SCANLAN EARLY
As his Monsignor Scanlan (NY) team headed into the locker room at halftime - trailing Glenelg Country (Md.) 32-31 - 2020 guard Koby Brea had accounted for 19 of his team’s first-half points.
“I saw that we started off slow so I decided to provide the offense in the beginning,” Brea said, “and I knew that obviously in the second half that they would kind of key in on me and then I would just make everything easy for me teammates.”
That’s exactly what happened, as Glenelg Country’s focus on Brea allowed his teammates - most notably 2020 guard Joe Munden - plenty of opportunities. Munden scored 14 of his 22 points after halftime to help the Crusaders pulled away late. They outscored Glenelg Country 16-6 in the third quarter to take the lead and never trailed again.
Brea finished with a game-high 28 points. A University of Dayton (OH) commit, the 6-foot-6, 175-pounder looked very much like a Division I guard as he put together two strong performances in his team’s Governor’s Challenge debut. He scored 19 points in the Crusaders’ 79-77 loss to Piedmont Classical (NC on Saturday.
“It was a great experience, honestly,” he said of his team’s trip to Salisbury. “When Coach told us about about this tournament, we didn’t know what to expect, but to have, like, national teams from everywhere in the country, it’s crazy to compete with everyone.”
2020 wing Jordan Brathwaite had 22 points and 13 rebounds for Glenelg Country, while 2022 wing Noah Batchelor finished with 17 points.
MCNAMARA GRINDS OUT A WIN
Sunday’s game between Bishop McNamara and Seton Hall Prep (NJ) wasn’t one for lovers of offense.
The Mustangs and Pirates couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half, combining to shoot 12-for-53 as Seton Hall went into the locker room up 17-14. (You read that correctly.)
The third quarter proved to be the difference, as McNamara nearly matched their point total for the whole first half while outscoring Seton Hall 13-5.
2021 guard Ed Johnson Jr. had 11 points to lead a balanced scoring effort for the Mustangs. 2020 guard Kenny Womack and 2022 center Favour Aire each had 9 points, and 2020 guard Aaron Russell 7. 2021 forward Terrence Butler had 6, and 2021 guard David Brown and 2023 guard Raymond Watts each finished with two.
McNamara finished 19-of-49 from the field, while Seton Hall Prep went 15-of-51.
“What happened was we made a couple of shots,” McNamara coach Keith Veney said. “Ed hit a couple down the stretch, Aaron [Russell] hit a couple in there. Everybody just chipped in and made a couple here and there; it was 8 here, 7 there. So it was a bad team win, you know what I’m saying? But it was good, and I told them, ‘Be proud of yourselves, we won ugly.’ We got caught up in their pace and their game, and that’s what happened in the first half when it was 17-14. Then we said, ‘Look, we’re going to push up the press on ‘D’’ and that’s what happened and we got a couple of steals and buckets, and then just thugged it out, man. We grinded it out - it was like a Memphis Grizzly win - it was a grimy win, but I’m proud of the guys. We can take it and go back home, and in the last six games we’re 5-1, so we’re going into the New Year strong and I’m happy.”
Overall, Veney said that the Mustangs enjoyed their Governor’s Challenge experience.
“It was a chance for them to bond and have some fun,” he said. “We laughed and hung out and had a good time, so it was good. I told them I’ve got to change some of these room assignments around, but we’re going to be good going forward.”
Gary Hinds had 11 points to lead the Pirates.
SAN FELIPE ELECTRIFIES IN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME
Coach Louis Xavier Vidot and the San Felipe basketball team did whatever it took to get their tight-knit team from Puerto Rico to this year’s Governor's Challenge. They held car washes and bake sales. They worked on houses in the community and sought sponsorship for six months.
And when their fundraising efforts materialized into the special opportunity of competing on the mainland, the Eagles of Arecibo, Puerto Rico electrified. Though they went 1-2 in their three games at the Governor's Challenge, their fiery spirit and unmatched energy captured seemingly every witness at the Civic Center.
Their only win was a 73-71 come-from-behind overtime victory over Veritas Collegiate (Va.). They dropped their second game 63-37 to Beckley Prep (WV) and in their final game against a much bigger Father Henry Carr team from Toronto, Canada, the Eagles stormed from 12 points behind in the fourth quarter to nearly win it in the final seconds. Henry Carr wound up on top, 78-74.
“It took a lot of sacrifice to come here,” Vidot said. “My kids play good basketball. They play together. They play with so much passion. The experience is something we’ll never forget.”
So much passion that San Felipe accounted for 41 total fouls Sunday against Henry Carr, as three players fouled out and five finished with four fouls. But that same aggressiveness forced 20-plus turnovers in all three games and allowed the smaller San Felipe team (tallest player is 6-foot-3) to duke it out with bigger, stronger opponents.
“We tried to use our speed and our defense,” said San Felipe 2021 point guard Melvin Vargas, who stands at a generously listed 5-foot-9. “That’s our weapon to move around the big guys. We have the heart.”
Despite scoring 11 points on 3-for-13 shooting in three games, Vargas ran the point with grit and intellect all week for the Eagles. The fiery point guard led his team in assists with nine and came away with five steals. In the four-point loss to Henry Carr, he took five charges.
“My passion comes from my family at home in Puerto Rico,” Vargas said. “We are small, but we have to do big things with our heart.”
Vargas hopes to land an opportunity with a college program in the States and pursue his dream of playing in the NCAA.
“I would like to play for a college here in the States,” Vargas said. “I’d love to do that.”