The Riverdale Baptist Crusaders have maintained a winning tradition after dismantling National Christian Academy 58-38 to win the 2017 Falconers Summer League High School Basketball Championship on June 28. “We were working hard on skill development this offseason, and I saw a lot of it during the championship game,” Riverdale Baptist Head Coach Louis Wilson told the AFRO. “I think with the conditioning, the weight training, and the physicality has all gotten better.”

Ayan Teel dribbles the ball down the court during the 2017 Falconer’s Summer League High School Basketball Championship game. (Photo by Adam Ayalew)

Despite losing Deion Hammond, the school’s all-time leading scorer, to graduation a season ago, Wilson pushed for a team effort to step up in Hammond’s absence. Hammond averaged more than 16 points per game during the 2016 campaign.

Two players expected to have an increased workload are senior point guard Donovann Toatley and junior guard Ayan Teel.

Toatley was the Crusader’s second-leading scorer last year when the team won 31 games. He averaged more than 11 points per game and even accrued 23 points against Virginia Academy in a 73-58 regular season victory last year.

“Us winning the championship made me feel extremely confident in our team’s ability for the upcoming year,” Toatley told the AFRO. “For us to go and win and prove that we are the dominant team without some key pieces felt great.”

Toatley didn’t suit up for the championship game due to a minor back injury. Nevertheless, Teel picked up the slack with a total of 15 points to help thwart the perennial high school basketball powerhouse.

“I thought that I played pretty well,” Teel told the AFRO. “I knew that I had to step up because one of our players was injured and I had to run the floor pretty much the whole game. The key to our win was to get the ball inside, and it allowed us to work our inside-out game that gave a lot of our outside shooters open shots.”

Wilson has been impressed with Teel’s progression, and the junior guard has been reaping the benefits of his hard work as of late.  “He has taken another step in improving his game, and he has more confidence now,” said Wilson. “He is such a hard worker.”

Teel averaged 7.6 points per game in 2016, and he notched 12 double-digit efforts during that span. Teel has worked incredibly hard on his jumper, and he admitted to putting up 500-1,000 shots after every workout session to make a run at another Maryland State High School Basketball Championship.

“I feel very comfortable in this offense,” said Teel. “I want us to be a top five team in the area, and I want to make it to the state championship again. I have more responsibilities now as an upperclassman, so I have to step up my game.”

Though Teel and Toatley seem as if they will be a handful to guard, a new transfer from Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Va. is projected by the Baptist’s coaches and players to be a strong offensive player.

D’Marco Baucum made his presence known in the championship game after he scored 20 points while accounting for 10 boards and two blocks. The six-foot-six, 257 lb. high school player was a force to be reckoned with at the Arlington-based school, and Wilson foresees him entering the starting lineup this upcoming season.

“You look at his body type, and he looks like an inside big man only, but he can knock it down from the perimeter, so it opens up the floor for the rest of our shooters,” said Teel.

The regular season is still months away, but when it starts, Riverdale Baptist is looking forward to making a statement as one of the best high school basketball programs in the area. “I think all the hard work that was put in the spring is paying off early during the summer run,” said Wilson. “We’ve gotten a little stronger, and been able to finish some plays around the basket, and our conditioning has gotten a bit better. We are a veteran team because we only had two graduating seniors last season, so we have some continuity with our team.”