The Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, or ACIT, is one of the most prestigious high school basketball tournaments in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. region. A revolving door for marquee talent, stars including Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay, Austin Freeman and Chris Wright have headlined the ACIT during the last 50 years.

The tournament matches over three days some of the best Catholic schools in the country, and this year’s 50th annual ACIT is once again loaded with talent. The doors opened on March 18 at Frostburg State University, the tournament’s home since 1977, marking yet another exciting weekend in the tournament’s celebrated history.

Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) Crushes Bishop Walsh (Cumberland, Md.), 84-43

The Gonzaga Eagles (26-6) kicked off their quest for a third consecutive ACIT title by kicking the hosting Bishop Walsh Spartans (8-16) out of the first round in a blowout. Gonzaga benefited from a balanced scoring effort, with five players finishing in double figures.

Gonzaga’s starters relaxed on the bench for much of the fourth quarter, while freshmen Nate Britt and Kris Jenkins received some playing time, which could come in handy should the team meet up with Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) rival DeMatha for a fourth time this season on Saturday.

Head coach Steve Turner declined to explain his decision to extend his freshmen’s minutes, or if he was saving his starters for that tougher opponent.

“Our goal right now is to try to three-peat,” Turner said. “We’re the two-time defending champions of this event and it doesn’t matter who it is, if we get that opportunity to play in that final game, we’re trying to win a championship.”

St. Frances Academy (Baltimore, Md.) Drops Benedictine High School (Richmond, Va.), 74-56

Something about players recruited by Duke tends to capture the attention of a gymnasium. So while crowd members were busy pointing out Benedictine’s Mike Gbinije, the junior’s presence was also garnering special defensive attention from St. Frances. The 6-foot, 7-inch small forward finished with 18 points, but while the Panthers continued to key on him, fellow junior Trey Davis exploded for 29 points.

Davis shot 20 free throws and Benedictine (24-7) overcame a 31-23 halftime deficit to outscore St. Frances, 49-25, in the second half.

Despite the loss, St. Frances (22-9) could still have a chance at repeating next season as Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association champions, as they will welcome back the talented Greg Lewis and Sam Cassell Jr., who are currently juniors.

Mount Saint Joseph (Baltimore, Md.)  Judge Memorial Catholic High School (Salt Lake City, Utah), 59-41

The Judge Memorial Bulldogs play the game the right way: smart, heady and with a lot of heart. Though they lack size, Judge Memorial (17-6) held tough through a 23-20 first half against Mount St. Joseph until the Baltimore Catholic League regular season champions took over in the second half.

Mount St. Joseph outscored Judge Memorial, 36-21, in the final two quarters as sharp-shooting senior Ryley Beaumont posted 17 points and hauled in nine rebounds. Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year Eric Atkins lived up to his billing with a 21-point, six-assist outing, while Judge Memorial was held to two single-digit scoring quarters.

DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md) Routs Cathedral High School (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) 81-36

The DeMatha Stags are running out of things to prove this season. The past two weeks have brought them both the WCAC and D.C. City championships. But breaking division rival Gonzaga’s two-year stranglehold over the ACIT trophy could be a source of motivation, and if so, the Stags appear to be taking no prisoners.

DeMatha (31-3) ran over, through and around Cathedral (22-14) on their way to the most lopsided victory of the opening round. Standout point guard Quinn Cook’s 18 points led DeMatha, but the junior only needed a few short quarters to pile up his stat sheet.

DeMatha led 56-24 at halftime and head coach Mike Jones was able to get his third stringers involved in the action.
As the March 18 first day of play came to an end, DeMatha and Gonzaga appeared to be headed for another title game clash with both teams easily handling their competition.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO