LARGO – On the last weekend of the Summer Madness league, wing player Messiah Sumner scored a game-high 14 points to lead Bladensburg High School to a narrow 52-48 victory over Annapolis High School on June 30.
“It was a good team win,” Bladensburg Assistant Head Coach Jerry Byrd said, “We were a couple people down but next man steps up as we always say. It was a good team win and we learned a lot.”
In a game focused on momentum swings, the Mustangs blitzed Annapolis early on with a 12-2 run, highlighted by a steal and a one-handed slam by Sumner. Their lead grew to as many as 16 points in the first half but the Panthers regained momentum after a Xavier Green dunk in transition.
That single play led Annapolis to score 12 unanswered points to close the deficit to six points. Green finished tied with Craig Pratt Jr. for a team-high 13 points for the Panthers.
However, the Mustangs pushed the lead back to into the double-digits after back-to-back baskets from forward Steven Coates and guard Jaysean Boone.
Annapolis fired back with a 7-0 run and close the gap once again after a layup from forward Demari Turner.
As fast as the Panthers fought back, the Mustangs roared forward, scoring nine straight points.
One of those points came after a scramble for a loose ball fell into Sumner’s hands and he finished off the play with a layup as Bladensburg took a 10-point lead.
For Bladensburg, the scramble play epitomized their culture and how they look to play moving forward. According to Byrd, the Mustangs are right on the path they want to be on.
“We always play for each other basically,” Sumner said. “Our two big men got hurt and we always work on next man up. (In) that situation alone, me, Steve Coates and the other forward on the team had to step up and make plays. Going into the future and situations like that we’re going to have to keep doing that.”
Despite forwards Aman Measho and Kyrin Hines sitting out the second half due to injury, the Mustangs plugged away with their attack while building team chemistry during the Summer Madness matchup.
Annapolis continued to fight back late into the second half, cutting the lead to three points after a Green layup with 65 seconds left in the game.
Bladensburg guard Levonn Johnson countered with his own attack, running the whole length of the court with a defender on his hip and finished at the rim for two points.
Mustangs guard Damion Harris split a pair of free throws to extend their lead to six points.
The Panthers scored five straight points to make the contest into a one-point game after guard Jamari Harrod split a pair of free throws but that would be the closest Annapolis would get to tie the game. Harris closed the game out for Bladensburg and tallied the last four points to solidify their victory.
“When we went to huddle, coach was telling us, ‘don’t get mentally messed up,’” Sumner said about the final moments of the game. “Stay locked in and keep playing. Keep playing through everything.”
Annapolis ends their Summer Madness run with a 1-5 record. According to Assistant Coach Meiko Ross, the Panthers played well despite not much time to practice between games as they continue to get more acclimated with each other. They will look to continue working together to replace one of their key contributors, Byron Allen, who transferred to St. Francis Academy in Baltimore during the offseason.
“We have a good strong group of juniors and seniors coming in,” Ross said. “We’re going to pick up where we left off.”
For Bladensburg, their focus will continue building players that come out of their community verse recruiting players to join their squad.
That mentality helped carry the team to their regional championship and a state finals run in 2018. According to Byrd, their youth and growing core of talent will look to surpass their seven-win season from last year first in order to mold them into regional contenders.
“Coach (Antonio Williams) is one of the greatest guys I know period,” Byrd said. “(He is) from the community and the one thing people don’t know is he gets the kids out of the community. He doesn’t go out and search for kids, all these guys on the team that he has are from the community.”