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2023 Governor's Challenge: Day 5 Notebook

By Marcus Helton, 01/01/24, 2:00PM EST


Decatur ended this year's event with a bang, and more notes from the final day of a fantastic week.

Stephen Decatur's Careen Bolden punctuates his team's victory with a dunk at the buzzer.

Stephen Decatur's Careen Bolden punctuates his team's victory with a dunk at the buzzer.


SALISBURY, MD - After five days and 100-plus games, the 2023 Governor’s Challenge came to a close on Saturday with a premiere matchup between a pair of unbeaten teams in Dover (DE) and Stephen Decatur (Md.).

It proved to be well worth the wait.

In front of a frenzied crowd at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center, Decatur 2024 guard Careen Bolden made the go-ahead jumper and the game-clinching steal all in the final seconds to preserve a 53-52 win that kept the Seahawks undefeated and closed the Governor’s Challenge with a bang.

“It was nothing planned,” Bolden said with a laugh of his game-winner. “I had the ball and I’ve got the confidence to make any shot on the court, and I just told my teammates, ‘Get out the way and watch me work.’’

2025 guard Davin Chandler had 16 points to lead the Seahawks, while 2025 guard Zakhari Baker had 13.

“It means everything,” Chandler said of the win. “Playing against Dover is good comp, so it's just going to help us during the season in the long run.”

2024 guard Dorrell Little had a game-high 20 points to lead the Senators.

Dover seized the early lead, going up 18-8 after one quarter. Decatur woke up in the second, outscoring the Senators 14-4 to knot things at 22-22 at the break.

Decatur increased its lead to 39-32 after three quarters, and looked to be firmly in control after Chandler threw down a breakaway dunk to go ahead 46-36 with 4:16 remaining. Dover wasn’t done, though, and responded by reeling off 11 straight points to take a 47-46 lead before Decatur finally ended the run with a Brycen Coleman bucket.

Coleman later put the Seahawks up 51-50 with 50 seconds remaining, but Little put the Senators back on top at 52-51 with 30.7 to play. Dover then called a timeout to set up their defense.

On the opposite bench, Decatur coach BJ Johnson knew exactly whose hands to put the ball in.

“I gave him the nod, he can score,” Johnson said of Bolden. “I just told him, ‘Man, go do your thing,’ and that’s what he did.”

On the ensuing possession, Bolden dribbled the clock down to 15 seconds near the halfcourt Governor's Challenge logo before making his move against Nasheem Cosme. He got a screen from Coleman at the top of the 3-point line and drove left, pulled up and drained a jumper, forcing Dover to call a timeout with 4.2 seconds remaining.

After the clock started late the ensuing inbound, Dover was given the ball at halfcourt with 2.8 seconds remaining. Johnson called a timeout to tell his team to keep everything in front of them - “If they were going to throw that ball, they’d have to throw it back,” he said. “Nothing going to the basket.”

With Chandler face-guarding the inbounder, Bolden jumped the pass and cruised in for a thunderous one-handed dunk just after time expired to punctuate the win.

“I kind of knew what play they were running,” Bolden said. “I knew they were trying to get a pin-up play, and I just read it perfect like a DB and I just got the game-winning steal.”

Coincidentally, the win came exactly one year to the day after Bolden helped lead Seaford (DE) to an 88-66 victory over Decatur at the Governor’s Challenge. He transferred to Decatur over the summer, and was a key member of the Seahawks’ undefeated Class 2A State Champion football team.

It’s a testament to his teammates’ belief in him that they wanted Bolden to have the ball despite a poor shooting night. He finished with 8 points and went 4-of-15 from the field.

“He said he had it, so I trust Careen,” Chandler said. “Me and him have got good chemistry going on, so he said he wanted it, and I was like, ‘Alright, do you,’ and he clutched it up for us.”

Bolden said the fact that five of his basketball teammates also played football has helped with chemistry, and that their championship experience is a benefit as well.

“Yeah, we know what it takes to get there,” he said. “Teams are going to want to knock us off, so we’ve just got to be on our A-game every night.”

For now, though, Decatur and Bolden get to enjoy a special win heading into 2024.

“It just came down to who wanted it more, you know?” Bolden said. “It was two undefeated teams and they were playing hard putting pressure on us, and it just came down to that last play and I just got the steal and executed it."

Dons use big third quarter to spark title win

Loyola Blakefield (Md.).

The Loyola Blakefield (Md.) Dons found themselves in a tight Bracket Championship contest with Elizabeth (NJ) early, trailing 28-27 at the half.

In the third quarter, the entire complexion of the game changed.

Loyola Blakefield outscored Elizabeth 28-9 in the third to blow the game open and picked up a comfortable 69-47 victory to close their trip to Salisbury with a banner.

“We defended better as a team,” Loyola 2025 guard Mason Ellison said of the turnaround. “We applied pressure early. Coach Josh [Czerski] told us at halftime we needed three stops at the beginning of the second half in order to win this game, so that’s exactly what we did -  we came out strong and we defended. We went 0-for-7 from 3 in the first half, so Coach Josh just told us to toe the line a little bit more, and we were able to knock down shots. So that’s what was important for us in the second half.”

Ellison finished with a game-high 20 points, while 2026 guard Jesse LeGree added 14 and 2024 guard J’Lin Brown 13.

“In the first half that was their best punch, but it wasn’t ours,” LeGree said. “Our coach preaches first and last - first five minutes of the third quarter and the last five minutes of the first half - and if we do that, we’re going to win the game.”

The win capped a successful Governor’s Challenge trip for the Dons, who beat La Salle (RI) 59-46 in their opener Friday at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

“I mean, I think it helps us a lot, you know?” Ellison said. “Elizabeth is a good team and just being able to compete, that’s the main thing - and working on what we need to work on. There’s another team down here that we play as soon as we get home - Mt. Carmel - and they’re going to be a tough one for us. So that was good preparation and I think we’re going to be good going into the new year.”

LeGree agreed, and added that the Dons plan on winning much more hardware this season.

“It definitely helps us,” he said, “and it also helps the city where we’re from; it helps to put them on alert and know that we’re coming for the championship this year in both leagues - [Baltimore Catholic League] and [Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association].”

2024 guard London Carson had 17 points to lead the Minutemen, while 2025 wing Jordan Torres finished with 13.


Clinton Grace Christian (Md.) 2024 guard Isaiah Buckley.

Very little went right for Clinton Grace Christian (Md.) in the first half of their 65-62 overtime Bracket Championship victory over Archbishop Spalding (Md.).

While the Eagles came out misfiring, Spalding got open look after open look, and shot a sizzling 69 percent from the field (18-of-26) to take a 39-23 lead at the break.

“There were definitely a couple of arguments [at halftime], you know what I’m saying?” 2024 guard Isaiah Buckley said. “We just had to battle through adversity - it’s not like we haven’t been there before. But we definitely had to battle through adversity and we got the job done.”

Keyed by Buckley (18 points) and 2024 forward Daouda Traore (17 points and 6 rebounds), the Eagles looked like a different team after halftime as they rallied from 18 points down to pick up the win.

2024 guard and UMass-Lowell commit Kris Johnson all 8 of his points in the second half, and 2025 forward Bryce Adams had all 8 of his points and 6 of his 7 rebounds after the break.

“We knew as long as we played hard and went out and executed our plays, we were going to take it step by step and come back,” Traore said, “and that’s what we did.”

Clinton Grace outscored Spalding 19-8 in the third quarter and 16-11 in the fourth to force overtime.

In the extra period, 2024 guard Ky Panda-Massey hit a clutch corner 3 to give the Eagles a 63-62 lead with 40 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession Spalding’s Kam Carter drove into the lane and looked to pass, but Johnson came up with a steal and found Buckley for a lay-in to make it 65-62.

“It was a great win for us as a program and as a team,” Traore said. “I feel like we’re going to carry this energy to our next games, and then use that to motivate us, so even if we get down like that again, we’re going to fight back and come back every time.”

Elijah Barrett led the Cavaliers with 20, while Malik Washington had 15 and 11 rebounds and Carter had 10 points.


Bishop McNamara 2026 wing Jalyn Collingwood.

In their Governor’s Challenge opener on Friday, the Bishop McNamara (Md.) Mustangs went into the final minute with a five-point lead but failed to hold on in a 50-47 loss to Roman Catholic (Pa.).

In Saturday’s game with St. Benedict’s (NJ), McNamara found itself in a similar situation, but this time it sealed the deal.

2026 Jalyn Collingwood had 22 points and fellow sophomores Prince Moody (18) and Qayden Samuels (15) made plays down the stretch as the Mustangs held off the Gray Bees, 68-65.

Was Friday’s finish in the back of their minds in crunchtime on Saturday?

“It definitely was,” Collingwood said. “We had to make sure [to finish] we did NOT want to feel that again. So we made sure to pull this one through.”

The Mustang found themselves in an early who Saturday, as St. Benedict’s game out the game fast behind Chidi Nwige, who scored 17 of his team-high 20 points in the first half as the Gray Bees led 25-17 after one quarter and 44-36 at the break.

McNamara made its move in the third quarter, outscoring St. Benedict’s 20-11 to take a 56-55 lead. Their defense was even better in the fourth, as they held the Gray Bees to just 10 points. St. Benedict’s stayed within striking distance, but McNamara had an answer for each run.

Samuels made a big jumper with 53 seconds remaining to keep the lead at three. The Mustangs narrowly avoided a costly turnover on an inbounds with 28.5 seconds remaining and a one-point lead. Moody  later made one of two free throws with 4.5 seconds remaining for the final margin.

“I mean, the Lord works in mysterious ways,” Moody said of the late game situation. “That’s probably just what happened: another close game, we were down the whole game and came back and had energy. Me and Jay just picked it up, my point guard was doing what he was supposed to do in the second half, and that was it, for real.”

The win helped to cap 2023 on a high note for McNamara, which hosts DeMatha (Md.) in Washington Catholic Athletic Conference play on Tuesday.

“We just had to lock in, that’s all it was,” Collingwood said. “At first, it was only a couple of us playing real hard but then we all brought it together as a team just to finish it through.”

Nwige and Casper Pohto both had 20 for St. Benedict’s, while Tristan Davis added 11.


AZ Compass Prep and Rock Creek Christian White (Md.) played one of the day’s most exciting games, with AZ Compass rallying from 14 points down to pull out a 68-64 win.

For the entire afternoon, the Eagles went toe to to with the nationally-ranked Dragons, and made them sweat it out until the end.

Rock Creek led 18-11 after one quarter and 34-22 at the half. 

AZ Compass made its big push in the third quarter, outscoring the Eagles 24-10 to take a 47-46 lead.

The Dragons pushed their lead to as many as 15, but the Eagles had one more run left in them, closing the gap to four before ultimately falling short. 

6-foot-8 Arizona State commit Sammie Yeaney had 21 points - 15 in the second half - and 10 rebounds to lead the Dragons, while Jeremiah Fears had 18 points, Oregon commit Victorious Miller 13 and Cameron Miles 11.

2024 guard and West Liberty (WV) commit Machi Chester had a game-high 22 for Rock Creek, 16 of which came in the second half. 2025 forward Kam Wylie and 2026 forward Sean Van Dorn each had 13.


Holy Cross (NY) 2024 guard Jacob Moreno.

Holy Cross (NY) 2024 guard Jacob Moreno showed off his impressive athleticism by winning the Governor’s Challenge Slam Dunk Competition on Friday night, but he showed in two games that he’s got more tools in his bag.

Moreno averaged a team-high 20.5 points per game while shooting 47 percent (9-for-19) from 3-point range.

“I feel like I can shoot the ball pretty well and also attack the rim pretty well using my bounce,” he said. “I just feel like I have an overall game, so I’ve just got to put it all together.”

In his team’s opening 64-55 loss to St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (Va.) on Friday, he posted 23 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. He closed with 18 points and four 3’s on Saturday as the Knights held off Mt. Zion Prep (Md.) 59-58 to finish with a 1-1 record and third-place finish in their bracket.

“I mean, to be honest, I feel like we could have done better - we could have got that win [Friday] night,” Moreno said. “But coming into the new year, I just feel like we’re going to keep building and keep getting wins.”

The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder is still uncommitted, but said he’s heard from Division II College of Staten Island (NY), Queens College and Georgian Court (NJ), among others.


DeMatha (Md.) 2024 forward Malcolm Thomas.

A night after falling to AZ Compass Prep, DeMatha Catholic (Md.) found itself down at the half again to Salesianum (DE).

This time, though, the Stags responded in the second half.

Villanova-bound 2024 forward Malcolm Thomas scored 14 of his game-high 20 points after the break, 2026 guard Ashton Meeks finished with 16 points and 5 assists and 2025 guard Kade Sebastian had 14 and 6 boards as the Stags grinded out a 67-60 victory.

“It’s the sport of basketball - you’re going to win some, you're going to lose some, that’s how it is,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t mean we’re a horrible team at this point; we know our potential and we know what we can do. So we just put that one behind us and come out and win this one tonight.”

The first half was tightly-contested, with Salesianum leading 17-16 after one quarter and 33-29 at the half. 

DeMatha took control in the third, outscoring Sallies 21-10 to take the lead for good.

“We came out in the second half ready to play,” Meeks said. “It was a rough first half, so we came out ready to play, defended, and talked well. We came out ready to play so we wouldn’t lose again.”

2024 guard Justin Hinds led Salesianum with 16 points, while 2024 guard Kareem Thomas added 11.


The final day saw the crowning of Clinton Grace Christian (Md.), Loyola Blakefield (Md.) and New Church (Pa.) as this year’s final trio of Bracket Champions. ... Seaford (DE) 2024 guard Kashmier Wise closed a strong week with 28 points in a 76-51 win over Wicomico (Md.). ... 2025 guard Sebastian Edwards had 19 points and 2024 guard Shareef Jackson 11 as Roman Catholic (Pa.) beat Mount Carmel (Md.) 62-41 to go 2-0 on its Governor's Challenge trip.


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