BY CHARLES ABANKWA
UPPER MARLBORO, MD - The DeMatha Catholic Stags used huge second and third quarters to defeat Riverdale Baptist Crusaders 71-53 on Saturday night and earn a spot in the Maryland State Private School final on Monday at Bishop McNamara against Capitol Christian.
On the first play of the game the Stags set up an alley-oop play for DJ Harvey that was unsuccessful. The Crusaders capitalized, scoring on the next play down and forcing two DeMatha turnovers before a Jamal Wright 3-pointer gave the team an early 5-0 lead.
Harvey then made up for his failed dunk as he was able to flush it down with a putback of a Nate Darling missed jumper. Then McDonald’s All-American Markelle Fultz made his presence felt in the game, scoring the next five straight points for the Stags.
The Crusaders Curtis Williams responded to Fultz scoring run with a 5-0 run of his own that gave Riverdale back the lead at 14-9. The back and forth scoring would continue as Harvey knocked down a 3-pointer and Fultz added a layup to tie the game at 14 before a Raine McKeython layup gave the Crusaders back the lead at 16-14 after one quarter of play.
In the second quarter DeMatha freshman guard Justin Moore came alive. After missing his first shot of the game, Moore made his next five shots of the quarter. Moore scored 13 points in the quarter - including three 3-pointers - and turned the Stags two-point deficit into a 12 point lead going into the half.
DeMatha's offense continued to lead the way in the third quarter. Harvey scored the team’s first points of the half with a 3-pointer that gave the Stags a 13-point lead. During the third quarter Riverdale's Wright scored his 1,000 career point, but that celebration was short-lived as both Fultz and Harvey threw down back-to-back nasty break away dunks that put the team up 47-33.
That, however, wasn’t the highlight dunk of the quarter. With about a minute to play in the quarter Fultz brought the packed crowd to its feet as he took off a few steps into the lane and hammered it down on Deion Hammond to push the Stags lead to 59-42 after three quarters.
In a fourth quarter that was nothing more than a formality, both teams struggled to score combining for a total of 22 points. The Stags would go on to win the game in convincing fashion against the Crusaders, 71-53.
CAPITOL CHRISTIAN 56, ST. MARY'S RYKEN 51
In game one of the Maryland State Private School semifinals the Capitol Christian Warriors held on late to defeat the Saint Mary’s Ryken Knights 56-51 and advance to the title game.
“Anytime you get the opportunity to play against the WCAC school you relish it,” said Capitol Christian head coach Dr. Van Whitfield. “To advance to the state championship game means a lot to us; we’re the smallest school in the tournament. So we relish the opportunity and are very excited for our school and student athletes.”
The Warriors in the first quarter three point shot pushed the team to a 15-10 lead after one quarter.
As the second quarter got underway the Knights were able to cut into the Warriors lead, tying the game at 17 with under four minutes to play in the half after Deivydas Kuzavas split a pair of free throws.
Capitol Christian responded to Ryken’s run with a run of its own outscoring the Knights 10-2 during the final three minutes of the half to take a 27-19 lead going into halftime.
Coming out of the half Kobby Ayetey of the Warriors was hot. Ayetey scored the Warriors first six points coming out the half, while being a catalyst on the defensive end for the team. Saint Mary’s Ryken was forced to take a timeout after Ayetey’s third consecutive jumper. The timeout proved to not be effective as Capitol Christian extended its lead to 15 the largest of the game, and went into the fourth quarter with a 13 point lead.
“I think that in total the game came down to focusing in our defensive schemes and the team just followed it to the letter,” Whitfield said. “We were able to take away their two leading scorers and not let them get involved.”
Ayetey continued his stellar defensive play as the fourth quarter began. The defensive pressure kept the Warriors lead at double digits throughout much of the fourth quarter. However, the outside shooting of the Knights came to life midway through the fourth.
Starting with a Donovan Steward 3-pointer the Knights made four three pointers in the final five minutes, but the 3-point onslaught was a bit too late as the Knights ran out of time and fell to the Warriors 56-51.
The victory for the Warriors sets them up for a championship final against the DeMatha Stags Monday, and Darryl Smith and the rest of the Warriors are ready for the opportunity.
“This is great for us," Smith said. "For a lot of us this is our first year playing in the private school league, the rest of us have played in the private school league and have wanted this for a while, and as a team we have all wanted this together. We got a big chip on our shoulder because the big schools always get their name called first and we have been underrated the whole year so far.”