St. Charles (Md.) 2020 guard Omar McGann. [MARCUS HELTON]
St. Charles (Md.) 2020 wing Max Brooks. [MARCUS HELTON]
WALDORF, MD - St. Charles High School’s players and coaches have the utmost belief in 2020 guard Omar McGann’s shooting ability, so when the Spartans badly needed a bucket in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s playoff matchup with Oxon Hill, they didn’t hesitate to look his way.
McCann rewarded their faith, hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to quell an Oxon Hill rally and give the Spartans breathing room as they pulled away for a 78-62 win in a highly-anticipated Maryland 3A South Region I contest.
“When I threw it to him, I said, “Money’ - I just knew,” St. Charles 2020 guard Tremaine Chesley said of McGann. “We’ve got that connection and I just know ‘O’, and I know in times like that he's going to come through and do what he’s got to do and hold it down for us.”
The Spartans (24-1) advance and will host Potomac - a 75-57 winner over Great Mills - in the 3A South Region I Final on Thursday at 6 pm. In a change to the format this year, the eight region champions will then be re-seeded in the state quarterfinals based off of their regular-season winning percentage.
Thursday’s game was much-hyped coming in, with the second round meeting between the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Champion Spartans and Prince George’s County Champion Clippers seemingly more fit for a regional final. Spectators began lining up hours in advance, and many were eventually turned away and the doors were locked when the gym reached capacity.
Despite all the chatter surrounding the game, St. Charles coach Brett Campbell said it wasn’t hard to keep his team focused.
“Our guys were so locked in,” he said. “I mean in study hall today you wouldn’t have known that we were playing a playoff game tonight. Guys were doing their work and guys that were finished were kind of talking, and it was great. So I think that’s that veteran experience of senior class that we’ve got.”
Since losing their Governor’s Challenge bracket opener to Middleburg (Va.) on December 27, the Spartans have won 19 straight, standing up against a tough non-conference slate that has included Wise (Md.), Gaithersburg (Md.), Bishop O’Connell (Va.) and Riverdale Baptist (Md.).
“Our guys have prepared for most things that are going to be thrown at them, especially talent and size,” Campbell said. “. … We tried to have the best schedule possible to prepare ourselves for this.”
While McGann helped the Spartans close out Thursday’s game, it was 2020 wing Max Brooks who got them started.
The UMass-Lowell commit simply took over for a stretch of the first half, scoring 15 of his team-high 21 points and collecting four blocks. During one sequence he dunked, blocked a shot and then dunked on the ensuing possession.
“My teammates were feeding me,” Brooks said, “and it was just the flow of our offense, it was great. It was a good run and we were just playing Spartan basketball.”
Said Campbell: “He really stepped up. He kind of took pride in playing defense for us all year long and really did a good job of protecting the rim for us and rebounding the ball and guys rewarded him getting him the ball where he wanted to and he was able to finish at the rim.”
St. Charles led by 19 points (30-11) with 3:51 remaining in the second quarter, and took a 32-20 lead into the locker room at the break.
Oxon Hill cut the deficit to five points in the third quarter but trailed by 9 (50-41) entering the fourth. They climbed back to within six before McGann responded with his consecutive 3’s to push the advantage back to double digits. The Clippers (21-4) never seriously threatened again.
“That was just my teammates getting me open and knowing where my hotspots are,” McGann said. “That’s thanks to them, they did their job. Those were just big 3’s that I know my team knows I’m comfortable hitting; if they need a 3 they know who to go to: Me, Amir [Dade]. I just got hot.”
McGann finished with 19 points and Chesley 16 for St. Charles.
Oxon Hill star guard Ronald Polite finished with a game-high 25 points despite battling foul trouble the entire game. The George Mason commit picked up his fourth foul with 5:19 to play in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the frame. Fellow 2020 guard Mike Sumner tried to pick up the scoring slack in his absence but got into foul trouble of his own, eventually fouling out on a questionable call with 6:24 remaining in the game.
2020 guard Malik Holland had 14 points for the Clippers, while Sumner finished with 10.
“They made some shots early,” Oxon Hill coach Lewis Howard said of St. Charles, “and we knew that they play with a lot of emotion, and some shots that we normally make early, we didn’t make. They got out in transition a couple of times - which is fine, and we expected that. Things changed in the third quarter when just the fouls started adding up and it looked like it could have potentially been one way, but that’s what happens when you’re on the road. We made a run and closed it to six, and it was an opportunity for us to continue to play, and it goes in the other direction.”
The loss marked the end of a very nice campaign for the Clippers, who won the PG Championship for the first time since 2010 and re-established themselves as a contender in Year 3 under Howard.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Howard said. “I’m proud of them and the way that they played and the way that they stood up, and the way that they showed up in the face of adversity. I’m very proud of these young men and what they’ve accomplished this year and in the period of time that they’ve been there with me. So I can’t ask for anything more than that.”