Bishop McNamara's Rashad Whack, left, and DeMatha's Josh Selby… (Ricky Carioti -- The Washington…)
With a three-game losing streak and one of its top players sidelined by a sprained ankle, Bishop McNamara showed why it is still considered one of the region's best teams.
Center Talib Zanna continued his strong play with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and forward Lawrence Smith added a season-high 15 points to lead the Mustangs to a 57-40 victory over O'Connell on Sunday. The victory ended the losing streak -- McNamara had started the season with 11 victories in 12 games -- and put the Mustangs back in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference race amid a brutal schedule.
"We've only played three home games, so I can't complain right now," McNamara Coach Marty Keithline said.
The Mustangs (12-4, 6-2 WCAC entering the week) played in a holiday tournament in Charlotte and will play in their third one-day event this season Sunday, against highly touted St. Benedict's of New Jersey in the Lehigh Valley Showcase in Allentown, Pa. St. Benedict's is led by 6-foot-8 junior Tristan Thompson, who has committed to play for Texas.
McNamara often has been led this season by Zanna, a 6-9 senior who has committed to play for Pittsburgh. And the Mustangs relied on Zanna even more heavily against O'Connell as senior forward Rashad Whack, a George Mason recruit, sat out with a sprained left ankle. Zanna, who had big games in losses last week to Gonzaga and DeMatha, responded with yet another double-double.
"He was just all over the place," Keithline said. "He's doing a lot of things for us. He hit a couple jumpers, a couple dunks, a couple big post moves. Friday [against DeMatha when Zanna had 21 points and 13 rebounds] we just didn't get him the ball enough. Our guards just got eaten up and they didn't go a good enough job getting him the ball." . . .
The hottest public school team in the county entering the week was Friendly, which takes a 10-1 record into tonight's key game at Gwynn Park; both teams are 8-0 in Prince George's 3A/2A/1A play. Senior guard A.J. Thomas averages 24.5 points per game for the Patriots, second-best among county players.
"I have the best guard in the area," Friendly Coach Rob Garner said. "That's what I believe. He does so much for our team. For him to have such a good year says a lot about him. He gets pounded every night, he gets boxed-and-one, and he keeps coming back."
Gwynn Park Coach Mike Glick said he anticipated that with an experienced backcourt and deep rotation, Friendly would be strong this season. Thomas, who averaged 16.3 points last season, has picked up his scoring, posting double figures in every game this season and hitting the 30-point mark twice.
"He scores in a variety of ways," Glick said. "He can shoot off the dribble, he can definitely shoot threes, he gets to the rim and he gets to the line a lot."
Gwynn Park (9-3) has excelled in close games this season. The Yellow Jackets have won six in a row, with only one of those victories coming by more than 10 points. Sophomore guard Brandon Ford drove the length of the court and made a game-winning jumper Friday as Gwynn Park edged Largo 59-58 for its 28th consecutive league victory.
The Surrattsville girls have won the Maryland 1A South title the past two seasons. So, it's no surprise that the Hornets are once again having a solid season, with eight straight wins. Surrattsville is 9-2 overall, 7-1 in Prince George's 3A/2A/1A, leaving it a game behind league-leading Largo (10-2, 8-0) heading into today's matchup against Potomac (0-10, 0-7).
One of Surrattsville's losses was a 32-point defeat at the hands of Largo in mid-December, but the Hornets will get another shot at Largo on Tuesday, this time at home. Fourth-year coach Demario Newman said the key to beating Largo is to be prepared for its style of play.
"They're very up-tempo, they press. . . . We have to eliminate turnovers and be able to handle their pressure," he said. "As long as we handle their pressure, we'll be fine."
Guard Chanae Shorter has averaged close to 20 points per game during the winning streak, and Newman has gotten key contributions from senior forward Endia Hill (11.4 ppg) and junior guard Briana Gross (10.8 ppg).
Surrattsville started 1-2 (also losing to Baltimore power Digital Harbor), but Newman said the team found its niche during the Milford Mill Christmas tournament, when Hill averaged a double-double (points-rebounds) and the team beat the host Millers and McDonough of Charles County.
"Team defense and rebounding have sparked the drive," Newman said. "That plus the energy they bring to the game. I give them a goal for each quarter: Try to put X number of points on the board. They'll push themselves to reach that goal." . . .
Grace Brethren-Clinton junior Andrea Jones is closing in on an impressive feat: breaking the school's career scoring record in her junior year.