LARGO – Brandon Emanuel recorded game-highs of 17 points and eight rebounds, while Muhammed Yilmaz finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists to power DuVal High School’s boys basketball team to a 50-40 win over Largo in Game 2 of the inaugural Summer Madness league on May 26.
Summer Madness, a summer basketball league which began on May 26, not only brings together public high school programs throughout Prince George’s County but gives rising local talent a platform to showcase their skills and potential as they prepare for the upcoming fall 2019 season.
Neal Tucker, the lead architect of The Huddle Sports Talk Show, partnered with Robert Pettis of Positive Innovations to Succeed in Sports Inc. (P.I.T.S), to start Summer Madness out of a need to spotlight local high school basketball athletes who may not get as much exposure as athletes from private schools. According to Tucker, the primary goals are to expand, get other counties involved and eventually invite collegiate scouts.
“We just wanted to have another outlet, a venue,” Tucker said. “We know WCAC (Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) gets a lot of love, and they actually welcome The Huddle as well, but we want to set the (precedent) for Prince George’s County. We have a few other leagues but nothing that’s media-driven for the leagues.”
Games consist of two 16-minute halves in contrast to the usual four eight-minute quarters. Local teams, including DuVal, Eleanor Roosevelt, Frederick Douglass, St. Vincent Pallotti, Largo and Parkdale, will compete in a tournament-style format every Sunday through the end of June.
Following the opening matchup between Parkdale and Palotti, DuVal squared off against Largo in a game of runs that was ultimately decided by crucial late-game defensive plays.
Staying disciplined and playing defense were the keys to victory, Emanuel said. The 6-foot-3 forward sees the summer league as a chance to learn and grow as a program.
“I feel like this is a good experience coming in because we have some JV players coming up, so it gives them experience going into next season,” Emanuel said. “It will help us by giving us more looks at teams that we’re going to play against and help us work on stuff that we should be working on every day.”
The Tigers used a trap defense that led to easy transition buckets to jump out to an early 11-0 lead. Largo responded with a few defensive stops and transition layups on the offensive end to reduce their deficit to 16-12 toward the end of the first half. DuVal went on another scoring run to lead 27-14 at the break.
Largo showed shaky ball handling to open the second half as they trailed by 16 points to DuVal early on. Following a timeout by Assistant Coach Khari Sewell, the Lions turned up the intensity on both ends of the court to close their deficit to 42-36 with 3:30 remaining.
In the critical moments of the game, Largo could not advance the ball and run their offense to get off a good shot. DuVal did its part with late-game pressure with their defense.
Controlling the pace of the game and playing staunch team defense was vital in sealing the victory for the Tigers.
“What we talked to the guys after the game about is pace. Understanding pace and understanding the game flow; also understanding time, the score and time management,” DuVal Head Coach Terrence Norris said.
The Tigers will have five returning players, according to Norris. One of them is Pierce Commodore, who made two of his three steals in the last two minutes to help prevent a Largo comeback. The upcoming junior also notched a game-high four assists. Norris expressed the potential he sees in the summer league and the long-term impact it will have on his program.
“I think the Summer Madness league will be a good opportunity for us to get a chance to showcase some of the work that we’re putting in for the offseason,” Norris said. “It also gives a chance for guys in the junior varsity level to gain some continuity with some guys who were already on the varsity level. It’s also some good competition as well.”
Sewell, an assistant on the varsity team and head coach of the junior varsity team, said Largo has four returning players from last season’s squad. The summer league will help new additions get acclimated with the system, he said.
“We started out slow. We started out 12-nothing the beginning of the game. You can’t start like that and expect to win the game,” said Sewell, a former Largo basketball player.
“We got a couple of new guys out there that don’t really know the system, but its summer league, that’s what this is for. They got to get in where they fit in, see how they can help us and see (whether) they’ll have a shot when the season comes.”
Summer Madness is an excellent opportunity for his guys to develop skills and practice, Sewell said, but it operates like any other summer league.
“It’s just an opportunity for the kids to go out there and play basketball; they got to play,” Sewell said. “Every game’s like practice. Teams don’t usually practice during the summer but playing in different leagues – that’s the time you’ll have to practice on things you’ll have to do in the season. Hopefully, everybody gets on the same page so we can make a run when the season starts.”
Returning player Dante Woody led the way for the Lions with 10 points, and Chiz Opara chipped in with nine points, two rebounds and two assists.
Woody, a rising senior, said he would have to assume the role of playmaker and scorer, filling the shoes of standout Christian Magruder. He also appreciates the Summer Madness experience.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for our team, you know, get some exposure (and) kind of get better as a team.”