Upper Marlboro, Md.’s Henry A. Wise High School merely played host to last year’s inaugural Maryland National Hoops Classic, succumbing in the early rounds of the tourney. This year, the Wise Pumas made sure to defend their home turf.

In front of energetic home crowd, Wise defeated Washington, D.C.’s Archbishop Carroll Lions 66-62 on Dec. 30 to win the second annual championship. Behind star junior guard Keith Shivers (16 points), Wise overcame an opening drought where it didn’t score for the game’s first four minutes.

After Shivers connected on a three-pointer to get his team on the board, his teammates followed his lead and Wise opened an 11-point halftime cushion. With both teams playing their third game in as many nights, it took until late in the game for action to pick up, after Carroll fought back to tie the score at 46. After opening the game with a rotating zone defense that confused Wise, Carroll went back to its original defensive formula to draw even. Carroll forced turnovers and got out on the fast break in the third quarter before Wise regained their composure for the last quarter.

With the game on the line and Wise nursing a narrow fourth quarter lead, Shivers stepped to the forefront again, coming up with a key steal and slipping away for a breakaway dunk to give Wise the deciding score as time ticked away.

“He played pretty well,” Wise coach O.J. Johnson said about his star player. “His shot has been a little off lately but I think it’s starting to come back. But he was huge on the defensive rebounding side .”

Wise (7-1) defeated Baltimore’s Perry Hall High School and Brandywine, Md.’s Gwynn Park High School in the tournament’s opening rounds to advance to the championship game, a feat that satisfied its hard-working head coach.

“It’s very big, I’m very proud of our young men, they played excellent today,” Johnson said. “Last year we lost to a tough team from Memphis. You have to give a lot of credit to Carroll; we were up 11 at half time but they continued to fight back and tied the game up in the fourth quarter. Fortunately for us we were able to pull it out and get a couple of key stops in the end.”

Carroll (7-5) knocked off Bowie High School and Upper Marlboro, Md.’s Riverdale Baptist High School to advance to the championship game.

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO