Riverdale Baptist wins Falconer's crown
July 15, 2004
Terron Hampton
Staff Writer

Riverdale Baptist would like to believe that it has the best boys' basketball team in the county.

Friday night's 42-39 victory against Douglass in the 2004 Falconer's League title game may go a long way toward giving credence to that notion.

What observers should pay attention to in that result is not so much Riverdale Baptist's margin of victory over a young Douglass team, but the manner in which that victory was attained.

The Crusaders prevailed without several starters. In all, Riverdale Baptist was without, perhaps, its top six players.

Team captains Devin Sweetney and Jovan Borum, along with Daniel Hedgepath, Diamond Avery, Chris McFarland and Mike Beasely, were unavailable.

All except for Beasely attended the Eastern Invitational Basketball Camp. Sweetney was a part of the camp's Top 20 All-Star Game, the camp's premier event.

Beasely was one of a few gifted players to take part in last weekend's Adidas Superstar Camp at the Suwanee Sports Academy in Suwanee, Ga. Beasely -- a 6-foot-9 sophomore forward -- was one of about 200 players invited to the camp by prep basketball experts.

Meanwhile, back in Upper Marlboro, the remainder of the Crusaders still managed to capture a summer league title with just eight players.

Led by forward Edwin Bailey, point guard Kenny Burkes and guard Irvin Jones, Riverdale Baptist overcame a 25-17 halftime deficit.

Jones led the team with 14 points, while Bailey chipped in 11 and Burkes added seven.

"This win was very important," Bailey said. "We're trying to prove that we are out here and that people cannot miss even a half step against Riverdale. We want to let it be known that we are not messing around with them."

Douglass played well behind the three-point shooting of junior guards Michael Lewis and Ronnie Barbour. Forward Cliff Dixon and guard Marcus Melvin helped the Eagles get points down low early in the game.

Riverdale used defensive pressure to storm back in the second half. When the full-court pressure worked, the turnovers led to easy baskets. When Douglass got the ball past midcourt, Riverdale forced the Eagles into bad misses. Douglass scored just five points in the third quarter, as Riverdale took a 36-35 and never looked back.

"This proves that we're very deep," said Riverdale Baptist summer league coach Chuck Latimer. "This proves that we're right there with any team. We had just eight players suit up. We played a good Fairmont Heights team down to the wire [on July 8]. I knew the kids were tired. This gave us a chance to give some of these kids some quality minutes in the summer that will help us in the winter."

Said Jones, "It doesn't matter if we don't have all of our players. We're all equal on this team. We sub in 5's on this team."

The league all-star game followed the championship contest. The East team defeated the West, 93-70. The West team was comprised of county players including Wesley Sweet, Nasir Austin and Jovan Whitby of Fairmont Heights; Neal Pitt of National Christian; Michael Lewis and Cliff Dixon of Douglass; and Chevon Pinnock of Central). The East team had three county players, Bailey, Jones and Burkes, all of Riverdale Baptist.

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.