- The Enterprise
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For the second time in three years, the North Point Eagles are the top seed in the highly competitive boys basketball playoff field of the Class 4A East Region.
For the second straight postseason, North Point enters regionals as the preeminent favorite — in the entire state.
North Point (21-1 overall) is looking to capture a second state title in three years after getting heartbroken in last year’s 4A semifinals at University of Maryland’s Comcast Center on a driving layup by Eleanor Roosevelt of Prince George’s County to untie the score in the final seconds.
North Point’s state glory in 2011 ended a prodigious 38-year skid for the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference without a boys hoops Maryland banner.
And its dominant regular season in 2012-13 provided no reason to doubt its favored status to claim a third-straight regional title this postseason en route to reigning over the state again.
North Point’s only loss came in a 60-57 shortcoming to prep school power DeMatha in the Prince George’s County-hosted inaugural DMV Tip-Off Classic, and the defeat was more about the Eagles not playing up to their usual standard as they failed to hit any three-pointers and never got into their signature defense-generated offensive groove.
For the third-straight regular season, North Point was perfect in SMAC games en route to the conference crown — now boasting a 38-game win streak inside the talented league — and all of its regular season wins were by double digits.
North Point is led by a dynamic college-bound trio in point guard Marquis Wright (Division I Loyola) and forwards Matt Bonds (Division II St. Michael’s) and Naim Muhammad (Division II Shepherd), each a force on both sides of the court in the Eagles’ high-octane style of play.
“Everybody always says we have the target on our back but how about going out and getting people. That’s the attitude we’re taking, we’re going out to get you,” said North Point head coach Jimmy Ball, whose club opens its regional action, with home court throughout, in the quarterfinals Thursday of next week versus either ninth-seeded South River or eighth-seeded Glen Burnie, both of Anne Arundel County, at 6:30 p.m.
About North Point’s overwhelming pressure defense that has fueled the team to scoring more than 100 points a prolific nine times in the regular season, Ball added, “The best, the best, the best [we’ve ever had]. And if something happens and we don’t win [the state title], [this defense] still going to be the best. When you’ve got 15, 16 guys that buy into what you’re saying every day, that’s what you want.”
North Point can ill-afford to struggle at the line the deeper it advances into the playoffs. The 4A East also contains Arundel (20-3) as the No. 2 seed, while Roosevelt (22-1), only one of two Maryland public schools to beat North Point since the start of the 2010-11 season, is the top seed in the 4A South.
Other regional hopes from SMAC
Stone (15-7) is gunning for a fifth regional crown in six years as the reigning 3A state runner-up.
The Cougars are seeded No. 2 in the 3A South Region where Potomac of Prince George’s County (18-3) boasts the top seed.
Stone will start the playoffs at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at home versus seventh-seeded Northern (5-17).
Westlake (16-6), coming off a big late-season win over Stone, earned the third seed in the 3A South.
The Wolverines will face sixth-seeded Chopticon (2-20) at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Ninth-seeded La Plata (9-10) will match up against eighth-seeded Huntingtown (9-13) in a first-round contest at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The winner faces Potomac on Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Calvert (16-6), which owned a 9-3 SMAC record along with Westlake behind only Stone’s 10-2 and North Point’s perfect 12-0 league marks, cashed in its quality regular season for the No. 2 seed in the 2A South bracket. Undefeated Oakland Mills of Howard County (22-0) is the top seed in the 2A South.
“We just have to keep playing together but we have to tighten up some defense, though,” Calvert head coach Jeremy Kurutz said. “I think we have some strengths in our defense, but at the same time we’re missing some things here and there. Our biggest hurdle is this next week we have no games so I have to keep them competitive. I don’t want us to go into our first game and them not be game-ready.”
Calvert, following a first-round bye, will host a familiar foe in either the SMAC’s Patuxent (4-18), the seventh seed, or Lackey (6-15), the 10th seed, on Thursday in the 2A South quarterfinals.
“We’re getting hot at a good time,” Calvert senior Josh Smith said. “We just need to stay consistent and when we get a lead, we have to keep it. And our guards need to keep doing their jobs, which they’re doing very well.”
McDonough (13-9), randomly seeded ninth in the 2A South, travels to eighth-seeded Gwynn Park (12-10) of Prince George’s County on Tuesday for its first-round game. A win there would mean playing top-seeded Oakland Mills, and darkhorse McDonough has been dangerous on the road in the regular season with an 8-4 record.
email@example.com Staff writer Michael Reid contributed to this report.