- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
When Tim Contee played in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference en route to graduating from Calvert High school in 2003, the league was known for having its quality teams and talent but was considered a big underdog once it spit out representatives to the state playoffs in both boys and girls basketball.
During Contee’s high school days, the SMAC had not won a state crown in boys basketball since 1972 and it had been 1990 when the league last reigned over Maryland in girls hoops.
Skip forward to the state playoffs in girls basketball this postseason, which began Thursday at University of Maryland Baltimore County’s RAC Arena in Baltimore, and the culture in regards to the SMAC versus the rest of the state has done a complete 180.
Fresh off their third straight regional crown, the North Point Eagles (25-0 overall entering Thursday) were the prohibitive favorites to capture the 4A Maryland banner when the undefeated team tipped off in the state semifinals Thursday against 4A South Region champion Eleanor Roosevelt of Prince George’s County (24-1), finishing too late for inclusion into this edition.
A North Point victory would advance the Eagles to Saturday’s state final at 3 p.m., also at UMBC, against the winner of the other Thursday state semifinal that had 4A West champion Walt Whitman of Montgomery County (20-4) taking on 4A North champion Baltimore Polytechnic (21-4).
The SMAC’s same highly favored status also applies in the 2A state playoffs featuring the familiar faces of the 2A South champion Calvert Cavaliers (23-2), led by Contee in his first season as head coach at his alma mater after longtime predecessor Frank Moore departed last summer to be the head coach with the Northern boys basketball program.
Calvert ended the SMAC’s girls hoops skid atop the state in 2011 by celebrating Maryland glory, the same postseason the North Point boys did the same for the SMAC.
And Calvert has yet to relinquish its upper hand over the state, in search of its third straight Maryland crown this weekend.
Calvert tips off at 5 p.m. today in the state semifinals at UMBC against Patterson Mill of Harford County, the 2A East champion, in a rematch from last year in the same round, won by the Cavaliers in 42-31 fashion.
Calvert expects to be in Saturday’s 2A final at 1 p.m., also at UMBC, versus the winner of today’s other state semifinal that has 2A West champion Middletown of Frederick County taking on 2A North champion Randallstown of Baltimore County.
“It would be a huge disappointment for us,” Contee said if Calvert does not claim the 2A state title for a third straight postseason, “because we’re trying to reach our goals. This is my first year coaching with these girls so all of this is kind of new to me. But we’re playing really well and jelling together. The girls are calm in practice. I do get the sense that we’re just going about our business.”
A Calvert state three-peat would put it in elite company as only seven other programs have ever won as many as three straight state titles in Maryland history. Brooklyn Park, formerly of Anne Arundel County, and Roosevelt hold the state record for five straight titles.
Calvert is a winner of 10 straight games.
North Point boasts an even loftier resume this season with all but one of its victories being by double digits, including a 60-43 win over Calvert on Jan. 30 that all but locked up the SMAC title.
Most of North Point’s wins have been blowouts in extremely one-sided fashion, evidenced by 101-18 and 57-15 victories over Anne Arundel County’s Chesapeake and Severna Park, respectively, in the 4A East regionals.
North Point plays a brand of high-pressured, full-court defense that has overwhelmed opponents. Even in the regional final when South River, also of Anne Arundel County, managed to hang around at halftime, down just 22-21 to North Point, the Eagles’ turnover-producing defense turned the game into one-sided affair in the final two quarters of a 71-47 victory.
“If we go and play defense the way we are capable of, I don’t think teams want any part of us and I don’t have any doubt,” North Point head coach Michael Serpone said Wednesday about his club winning it all, believing the Eagles are the fastest and most athletic team in the state’s final four of 4A. “This is the best defensive team we’ve ever had North Point, and it’s not even close.”
That includes last year’s North Point club that ventured to states confident of attaining state glory before falling in 64-62 fashion to Prince George’s County’s Henry A. Wise in the semifinals.
Syracuse-bound star Tasia Butler had a modest game by her own standards against Wise with 11 points, along with 11 rebounds, on just 4 of 13 (31 percent) shooting. Butler was also part of North Point’s state semifinals shortcoming by a 62-35 outcome two years ago versus Gaithersburg of Montgomery County.
The senior returned in her final foray to states Thursday with a vengeance, looking to make amends for North Point’s past two year’s worth of state disappointments.
“We’re very confident. We’ve done our scouting report and we know what to expect,” Butler said Wednesday on the eve of facing Roosevelt. “We have that bitter taste in our mouth and know what to expect. We’re not done yet.”
“We’ve got a few seniors that have been here the last two years and don’t want to see [a loss at states] happen again,” Serpone noted.
Butler added, “Yes, we do [like being the state favorite]. We have a chip on our shoulder. Everyone’s coming for us. We are expected to win, but we know it won’t be handed to us. Winning a state title the first time for North Point [girls basketball] will be an amazing feeling for me. I’ll be leaving my mark here.”
Senior guard Jasmine Weems is among four upperclassmen who have already left their mark on Calvert with winning a state title — twice.
But Weems is not content.
“I’m speechless,” Weems, a four-year varsity player, said about being on the precipice of another state title. “I’m just so glad to be a part of Calvert basketball the last three years. Definitely, we should [win it all], but we’re not going in there with our heads too high. We know Patterson Mill is going there wanting revenge.
“It would be a huge disappointment [if we didn’t win the state title]. I’m a senior and I plan to win the rest of my games.”
She then added, “I’d love to have my name in history that we [won states] three times.”