Two nights each week this summer, the coaches and players from several Southern Maryland Athletic boys basketball teams venture to Dr. Henry A. Wise High School in Prince George’s County looking to enhance their skills and make up for lost time.
Each Monday and Wednesday in July and into early August, boys basketball teams from North Point, St. Charles, Thomas Stone and Westlake are part of a 16-team Summer Madness league at Wise.
On a recent Monday evening the youthful players from those schools — which play under pseudonyms — were all engaged in tight contests that offered some invaluable learning lessons for players and coaches alike.
NPG, which is comprised primarily of returning and prospective varsity and junior varsity players from North Point, rallied from a 10-point second half deficit to forge a 41-39 victory when rising Eagles’ senior Kevin Collins delivered a tip-in at the buzzer. NPG had claimed its first lead of the half at 37-36 on a three-pointer from rising sophomore Collin Farmer, but it was Collins was eventually delivered the game-winning buzzer beater.
“I really loved the way the kids battled back in the second half,” said NPG coach Jeff Caldwell, a Westlake High School graduate who played under current Eagles’ boys’ basketball coach Jimmy Ball when he was still at the helm with the Wolverines. “We did a much better job defending and boxing out in the second half. Collin hit a big three-pointer and then Kevin came through with the tip.”
In a game being simultaneously in the main gym, Skys The Limit, comprised primarily of players from Thomas Stone High School, suffered a 48-40 setback. In a game that had been close throughout, the returning Cougars trailed by just a single point with 1:40 remaining. Like the other games on the summer slate, the setback proved to be a valuable learning experience for the youthful squad.
“You know, all of the teams in the SMAC and across the state are really in the same boat,” said Thomas Stone boys’ basketball coach Dale Lamberth, who will head into his 22nd season at the helm of the Cougars this winter. “We only have two returning seniors, Jacory [Wilkes] and Nico [Barnes] and none of the other guys had the chance to play last year. So, we’re not only going to be young but we’re also going to have a lot of guys that don’t have any varsity experience.”
In one of the earlier games in the Wise auxiliary gym, Basketball 4 Lyfe, which consists primarily of players from Westlake High School, used a 26-12 second half run to claim a 38-30 lead with three minutes remaining then just held on for a 42-20 victory. Wolverines’ assistant coach Darnell Kemp admitted he liked what he saw from his youthful group.
“These games are really good experience for the kids,” Kemp said. “None of these guys had the chance to play last season and not many returning players have varsity experience. We also played in the St. James league in Virginia, so these guys have been playing a lot this summer. The competition has been good and every game helps them get ready for next winter.”
All 16 teams in the Summer Madness league will compete in the postseason tournament beginning on July 28 and running through Aug. 1, with a championship game at 3 p.m. preceded by two consolation games at noon and 1:30 p.m. that day.