The Ballou Knights had their intensity, their home court and even their own marching band. But none of it was enough to overcome a star-studded Gonzaga Eagles squad, who came away with a 69-50 win in front of a large crowd at Ballou High School on Dec. 2.
Local hoops announcer Miles Rawls dubbed the season opener for both schools the “Private vs. Public School Matchup.” With Rawls announcing the game, several performances from the Ballou marching band and radio stations broadcasting live, an upset could’ve easily been in the cards for the fifth-ranked Eagles. But with 22 points from a future North Carolina Tar Heel, Nate Britt, Gonzaga barely broke a sweat.
The Eagles escaped a raucous first quarter with a hard-fought 11-10 lead. Defensive-minded senior Decarlos Baucom waged verbal and physical war with Britt early on, and Ballou rode the intensity of its defense to a hot start.
“We got off to a tough start. The game was pretty close in the beginning,” Britt admitted. But even with Baucom focused on rattling the junior, Britt charged on. When he wasn’t dazzling in the open court or finding the open man, Britt brought his own defensive intensity. The junior collected four steals, two of which helped open the game up in the second quarter as Gonzaga built an eight-point lead at halftime.
Britt’s strong first half kept Gonzaga above water—just in time for teammate Kris Jenkins’ big second half to completely sink Ballou. The Jenkins, a junior who finished with 21 points, gave way to Britt in the opening quarters but led a charge in the second half in which Gonzaga exploded to a 22-point lead in the third quarter, their largest of the game. Jenkins highlighted the third quarter with a one-handed dunk over a Ballou player and a pair of three-pointers that finally silenced an raucous audience.
“It was crazy,” Jenkins said about the atmosphere. With the crowd out of the game, Gonzaga (1-0) would coast the rest of way while Ballou (0-1) melted away on the sidelines.
Game Notes: The Ballou-Gonzaga was the featured matchup in the Metro Rivalry Event, a two-game promotion sponsored by Nike and Baltimore-based retailer Downtown Locker Room. Booker T. Washington and Eastern tipped off in the earlier matchup.