Roughly two minutes into the inaugural Crab Ball Classic, an All-Star boys’ basketball game matching the best of Washington, D.C. region vs. the best of Baltimore region, Henry A. Wise High School coach Rob Garner pondered a question about defense, and when the scarce amount of it being shown that far would disappear altogether.
Turns out, it was a trick question.
“Wait,” he said, laughing, “you mean we’ve seen some already?”
Yes, it’s All-Star game season, that time of year when defense becomes optional and dunks and pizzazz mandatory. After 40 minutes of basketball at DeMatha Catholic — it was played as a college game, with two 20 minute halves — the Baltimore-based team edged the Washington-based squad, 135-132.
“It’s alright,” said Clint Robinson of Charles H. Flowers, who concluded with four points and eight rebounds. “I was just trying to put on a show.”
For a game that finished with the scoreboard showing 267 combined points and the statistics reading off 198 total field goals attempted — that’s nearly seven points per minute and a field goal attempted every 12 or so seconds — one might assume that there was simply nobody playing defense at all. But, in all fairness, there was an astonishing amount of talent stocked on either team’s roster. Take, for example, the 12 Washington players, which included a 4A state champion (Justice Sneed of Wise), a 2A state champ (Quadree Smith of Potomac), a pair of 4A state semifinalists (Andrew and Aaron Robinson of Springbrook), an Interstate Athletic Conference champion (Andre Walker of Bullis), a Capital Beltway champ (Byron Hawkins of Clinton Christian), and a trio of Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular season champions (Darian Bryant, James Palmer, and Mike Morsel of St. John’s College High). So forgive the Baltimore team if there were a few snags encountered when trying to contain that bunch.
“That’s the best talent in the area,” said Sneed, who, much to the displeasure of his Wise teammates in the stands, only took one shot. “I feel like this is the best talent I’ve ever been around. These guys are great players, they make you better to be around. It’s just great to be around great ballers all at one time.”
Had Garner, who had to duck out early to coach the Prince George’s All-Star game, and Springbrook coach Tom Crowell stuck around for the final five minutes, they would have seen exactly why this has been billed one of the top All-Star games in the area this year. As the clock slowly wound down and the score reflected a one possession game, the competitive nature within each player began to override their thirst for some All-Star game showtime.
All of a sudden, bodies were clogging up lanes where flailing, matador-like arms would have been before. There was some jawing between teams. Unwise dunks were replaced by smarter layups or pull-up jumpers. A little bit of pride was on the line.
“I thought it was going to be a lot different than it really was,” said Andre Walker, a Hofstra signee who finished with four points in 14 minutes. “I thought everybody was going to be like — no defense being played. I’d say with about eight minutes left, people really started to play.”
“We decided, when the game got close, to start playing defense,” Aaron Robinson said. “Until then, it was strictly offense, no defense.”
But a John Crosby fast-break dunk with 2.5 seconds left put the Baltimore team up 135-132 and essentially out of reach, and an errant, Quadree Smith desperation heave would prove as much. And then, as quickly as it came, the competitive hunger dissipated, and players were laughing and posing for pictures, stuffing down cupcakes and befriending formal rivals.
“It was a lot of fun playing out there with guys of that caliber,” said Aaron Robinson, who scored 11 points and logged his first in-game dunk. “It was real fun.”
Baltimore 135, Washington 132
Baltimore 65 70 — 135
Washington 62 70 — 132
Baltimore: Timmy Bond 25, Kamau Stokes 24, Jaylen Adams 17, John Crosby 13, Rysheed Corbin 10, Jordan McNeil 9, Allen Costley 9, Zach Thomas 8, Kory Holden 7, Devin Shuler 6, Tariq Owens 4, Trevis Buchanon 3.
Washington: James Palmer 31, Byron Hawkins 24, Quadree Smith 17, Andrew Robinson 12, Aaron Robinson 11, Mike Cunningham 9, Marcquise Reed 8, Darian Bryant 8, Andre Walker 4, Clint Robinson 4, Mike Morsel 4.