Making it to the Comcast Center for the high school state boys’ basketball tournament is hard enough. No matter the classification or the opponent, it’s still a one-loss exit fee with little room for error.
With the new sectional system the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association put into place this year, a certain cluster of schools in the 2A South Region might claim to face the most turbulent and unpredictable path to states.
One particular “district” as Gwynn Park High School’s Mike Glick called the new bracket comprised of six teams within the 2A South, is made up of reigning 3A state finalist Potomac, Glick’s traditionally powerful Yellow Jackets, always-competitive Frederick Douglass, Friendly, a rejuvenated Largo squad and Southern of Anne Arundel County.
“I think our district is the best district in the state,” said Glick, whose team lost to Potomac earlier in the year, 69-49. “If you’re talking about top level talent, this is the best district. It’s just absolutely crazy that we’re all 2A and in one little district.”
Potomac has been dubbed by several coaches as the de facto No. 1 team, since they return the two integral pieces from the 2013 team — Maryland recruit Dion Wiley and Randall Broddie — that extended their season all the way to the 3A state finals last year before dropping down to 2A this season.
“All things considered, you got to give it to Potomac with all the hype they’ve received,” said Largo coach Lew Howard, whose team defeated the Wolverines, 68-64 on Monday. “You got to come to play every night. There’s no nights off.”
Neither Howard nor Glick objected to the thought that a state-title quality game could realistically take place in the opening round, about three weeks before the MPSSAA-designated state final. Largo, Potomac and Gwynn Park have all established themselves as legitimate candidates to represent Prince George’s County at Comcast, and with the way the seeding works — only the top two teams are seeded, the rest is random — there is a fair chance that two of those teams see one another in the first round.
“The toughest road to the state semifinal might be in the semifinals or quarterfinals of the district play,” Glick said. “If you put [2013 4A state semifinalist] North Point in our district, they might not make it out of the first round. It’s just crazy that all of us are in the same pod. You got to beat two teams just to get to the region finals, and that’s not even Comcast.”
The silver lining behind it all is that the team left standing after making its way through that sectional will have already proven itself against possibly the best teams the 2A has to offer. The Prince George’s County teams, with 1A Central also included in their regular league play, may have outright the most competitive schedule from the first tip of the season to the last.
“The best team on that night is going to win,” Howard said. “And it only prepares you for when you get out. You’re battle tested. It’s only going to help you. Each level in Prince George’s County has some of the best talent in the state and even in the country.”
If and when they do get out of the sectional, any possibilities of taking a breather are off the table, because then there is the 2012 state champion Lake Clifton, the 1A state champion Dunbar team that moved up to 2A and the Edmondson/Westside team that beat Wicomico on the buzzer to win it all in the 2A last year.
In one bizarre scenario, with Dunbar and Potomac moving up classes in the same year, there could be three 2013 state finalists, of which two became state champions, all in at least the region finals.
“The competition is good,” said Largo’s Abdulai Bundu, the leading public school scorer in the Washington, D.C. region with 26.7 points per game. “People are coming at us now. They see what we have, seen what we can do. We got a bulls-eye on our back.”
Throughout the year, that proverbial bulls-eye could flip from Bundu’s Largo to Potomac to Gwynn Park and back around the loop again.
“I’d rival our league against anybody else in the state,” Glick said. “I’d put our league against the 4A, the [Washington Catholic Athletic Conference] — any of them, as proven by the play so far this season.”