BLADENSBURG — In a scrappy, competitive and somewhat sloppy season opener, Bladensburg High School used its size advantage and some pivotal late-game baskets to top Chesapeake Math & IT Academy South, 61-56, at home on Dec. 7.
The score remained close all the way through as both teams sparingly traded close-range shots, free throws and three-pointers. Neither side shot particularly well, but the game intensified as it progressed.
Bladensburg Head Coach Antonio Williams said most of his team is new players who came up from junior varsity last year are still learning how to play together.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Williams said, explaining how most of the guys are inexperienced at the varsity level. The sixth-year head coach acknowledged CMIT’s toughness and his team’s resilience.
“CMIT, they did a great job…but our guys, battle-tested, they came back and fought well.”
While the respect that Bladensburg and CMIT had for one another was apparent, the environment remained hostile from start to end in a contest full of fouls, turnovers and even a few technicals.
Rather than playing man-on-man defense, both squads relied heavily on zone and trap sets to force bad shots and a few shot clock violations throughout the evening.
Entering the final quarter, the score was tied, 34-34, and the crowd remained adrenalized for the last eight minutes.
With 5:40 remaining, Mustangs forward Salem Olusoji had a put-back dunk to change the momentum of the game’s final moments. CMIT rallied back to reduce its deficit to 57-56 with about a minute left, but Bladensburg’s Semaj Miles drilled a three-pointer and Koby Eley broke free for an open layup inside of 20 seconds to seal the win for the Mustangs (1-0).
Junior forward Kyrin Hines posted a double-double: 10 points and 10 boards to go with two critical blocks to pace the Mustangs.
Hines said constant mistakes hurt Bladensburg at times, adding that he and his teammates underrated their opponent.
“They did give us a fight and we did make a lot of mistakes, but we still came out with the win. That’s all that matters,” the six-foot-seven lefty said. “It was a good team effort. Once again, (there were) a lot of mistakes. We minimize the mistakes, then it will be a great team effort.”
Also for the Mustangs, Olusoji finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. Bladensburg controlled the glass by outrebounding CMIT 40-19.
Reggie Washington led the Tigers with a game-high 17 points, converting four makes from long range to keep his team in the game late. The sophomore guard was the smallest player on the court but was clearly the most polished, skilled and efficient performer in the game.
“We did good. We was the underdog,” Washington said of CMIT.
Washington said he felt the Tigers (0-1) did exceptionally well for a team that was outsized. CMIT’s tallest player was only about six-foot-two while the Mustangs had players on the majority of their roster listed about six-foot-six.
“We did great. We were poised. We took care of the ball…and grabbed rebounds (though) we were undersized,” he said.
Coach Renaldo Quinn of CMIT knew the height disadvantage would present a major challenge, and said his team could have executed better in some areas. Nonetheless, he admired the tenacity and determination of his squad, whom he felt was underestimated entering the match-up.
“I felt we did great honestly,” Quinn said of his team’s effort.“I know we walked in here as the underdogs. People probably thought we were gonna get blown out. We came in here to make some noise (and) walk out of here with a W or some respect, and I think we’re walking out of here with some respect tonight.”
Furthermore, Quinn applauded Bladensburg for eking out the win.
“Bladensburg, they played a great game. They played hard. Honestly, I think they underestimated us but they did what they had to do. They came out with the victory, and they played well, and they played hard, and they deserved the win.”