Birdsong epitomized the team concept that led the Gaels to a state record for wins in a season by a boys basketball team. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound senior forward's constant hustle and all-around play helped lead the Gaels to a 38-1 season and a No. 5 national ranking by USA Today.
Birdsong's strengths were in evidence in Frostburg this past weekend at the 46th Alhambra tournament, where he led the Gaels to their first final in that event in 35 years, which they lost to DeMatha, 70-55. Birdsong, who was named to the All-Tournament team, had team highs of 14 points and 12 rebounds in the final and finished with 40 points, 26 rebounds and seven blocked shots in three games.
The Sun's Player of the Year honor caps off a postseason flurry of awards for Birdsong. Baltimore Catholic League coaches voted him as Most Valuable Player of both the regular season and tournament.
Birdsong, who has a scholarship to George Mason, did not have the highest statistics among the area's elite players, but his value to a team with balanced scoring went beyond his numbers.
"Louis is always there when it counts on a team that shares the basketball and doesn't care who scores," Gaels coach Pat Clatchey said. "Louis is all about winning, and that's what this team is about."
Birdsong, who shared team scoring honors with All-Metro guard Dejuan Goodwin at 12.2 points per game, had a knack for doing whatever it took - offensively or defensively - to win a game.
Birdsong averaged 8.5 rebounds, two blocked shots and 1.5 steals.
Clatchey led his alma mater to a state record for wins in a season by a boys basketball team, and has been named the All-Metro Coach of the Year for the second time in three years.
He led the Gaels to state records for single-season wins and most consecutive wins in one season. Mount St. Joseph finished as the runner-up in the 46th Alhambra tournament last weekend to conclude a 38-1 season that included four tournament titles and two regular-season crowns.
"Coach keeps everything on a low keel and is a great communicator," All-Metro guard Dejuan Goodwin said.
Clatchey's Gaels won the Gonzaga Classic in Washington, the Benedictine (Va.), the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and the 35th Baltimore Catholic League tournament titles.
The Gaels became the first BCL team to go un-defeated in the regular season plus the tournament (19-0) since coach Charlie Reif's 1983-84 Calvert Hall team.
"We tell our guys to play with emotion, but don't be emotional, and I was amazed at their poise and composure," said Clatchey, 43, who has also been selected by his peers as BCL Coach of the Year five consecutive seasons, a span in which his Gaels went an area-best 151-24. "They've taken a lot of teams' best shots and didn't get rattled. They always found a way. It was never a goal to go undefeated."
Mount St. Joseph went wire-to-wire as The Sun's No. 1-ranked team and also rose to No. 5 in the nation in USA Today . It's the highest national ranking for a Baltimore-area team since No. 1 Dunbar in 1991-92.
Clatchey is 322-128 (.716) in 14 seasons, winning three BCL tournament titles in the past four years and four consecutive regular-season crowns.
Baltimore City's leading scorer over the past two seasons, the 6-foot-3 senior guard led the No. 4-ranked Sabers to the Class 4A North regional title and the state semifinals. Barney, who led the metro area in scoring for most of the season, averaged 26.8 points and scored 1,366 points over his past two seasons, and more than 1,800 points in three seasons. This season, he scored a career-high 48 points against Williamsport (Pa.), and scored 41 against Carver. He also averaged 5.2 rebounds, six assists and four steals. Barney, also a first-team pick last season, has a scholarship to Providence.
Malcolm Delaney Towson Catholic, junior
A versatile guard who started his varsity career at McDonogh, the 6-3 junior has played the past two seasons at Towson Catholic and emerged as one of the area's top players. Delaney, who was a second team All-Metro pick last season after averaging 14 points a game, raised his scoring average to 18 per game this season and teamed with fellow junior Donte' Greene to give the No. 5 Owls a potent offense. They led the Owls to runner-up finishes in the Baltimore Catholic League and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference tournaments. He also averaged six rebounds, five assists and 2.7 steals.
Dejuan Goodwin Mount St. Joseph, senior
After missing the past two seasons with a knee injury, the 6-0 senior guard made the most of his final year. Goodwin helped the Gaels to a No. 1 ranking and a 38-1 mark as their co-leader in scoring (12.2 points per game). An integral part of a cohesive starting unit, Goodwin stepped up in tournaments and big games. Goodwin shot 31 percent (18-for-59) from three-point range and 70 percent from the line. He also averaged 3.4 assists, 4.1 rebounds and two steals. Baltimore Catholic League coaches named him to both the All-BCL regular-season and tournament teams. Goodwin is uncommitted to a college.
Donte' Greene Towson Catholic, junior
Talented at both ends of the court, the graceful, 6-9, 225-pound junior forward led the No. 5 Owls in scoring (23), rebounds (12) and blocked shots (four). A second-team All-Metro pick as a sophomore, Greene, whose moves are reminiscent of former Owl Carmelo Anthony, helped Josh Pratt make a smooth transition in his first year as coach. Pratt credits Greene for pulling the team together. Greene, who also averaged 3.1 assists, often dominated in the post while All-Metro guard Malcolm Delaney patrolled the perimeter. They combined for 40 points a game. With smooth moves to the basket, Greene could play above the rim and deliver crowd-pleasing dunks. His quickness, instincts and strength allowed him to specialize in put-backs, and he also was adept at hitting short jumpers or three-pointers and played excellent defense. Greene has committed early to Syracuse.
Johnny Higgins Randallstown, junior
The heart of the two-time defending state champion Rams, Higgins finished the season as the area's leading scorer at 27.8 points per game. The 6-2 guard, who is a junior academically but just concluded his final year of athletic eligibility, was a second-team All-Metro pick last year after playing a major role in the Rams' Class 3A state championship by averaging 15.5 points, 5.2 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 steals. Raising all of his statistics this season - 6.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 3.2 steals - for the Rams (26-1), Higgins was the team's go-to player. His leadership qualities also were evident this season. Higgins, who can drive, tip shots back in or hit shots from three-point range, had a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds in the Rams' 64-54 victory over Wicomico in this season's Class 2A state final.
Sean Mosley St. Frances, sophomore
Although only a sophomore, Mosley is a repeat All-Metro first-team selection. The 6-4 forward, who combines strength with gracefulness, averaged 18.5 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots for the seventh-ranked Panthers (24-10). Mosley's statistics were similar to those of last season, even though he drew more attention from defenses this season. Although St. Frances was unable to repeat as Baltimore Catholic League tournament champion, Mosley helped the Panthers remain one of the top teams in the BCL and MIAA A Conference. At the start of the season, Mosley led St. Frances to a tournament title in Ketchikan, Alaska, with 59 points and 30 rebounds in three wins.
Walter Sanders Mervo, senior
Sanders led Mervo to its first final four appearance since 2002, and he did it with all-out hustle and intensity in his first and only season as a starter. As the sixth man the past two years, Sanders was the Mustangs' second-leading scorer. In this his senior year, Sanders led Mervo in scoring (17.9 points per game) and to the Class 3A state semifinals with a 54-48 upset of defending champion and then-No. 2 Walbrook. Sanders, the first Mervo player chosen to the All-Metro first team since Marcus Hatten in 1999, had 18 points and six rebounds in the win over the Warriors. Despite Sanders' 15 points, Mervo lost to Lackey in the Class 3A semifinals. He also averaged 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 steals and two assists while shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line for the 10th-ranked Mustangs (21-5). Sanders has a football scholarship to Saint Augustine's College.
Rodney Spruill Walbrook, senior
After an All-Metro season as a junior, Spruill, 6-4, worked hard in the offseason to shed 35 pounds to improve his quickness and overall game. The result was another outstanding season, as the senior swing guard again led the Warriors in scoring, this time with 22 points a game, up from last season's average of 16.9. Spruill helped No. 3 Walbrook repeat as Baltimore City League champion, leading the Warriors to a 21-5 record and a 47-7 mark over the past two seasons. His all-around game was on display when he scored 22 and added 11 rebounds and three blocks in a 55-34 romp over then-No. 3 Southwestern in the city final. He set a personal high with 43 points in a regular-season win over Southwestern. A strong, left-handed shooter, Spruill, who can post up or take it outside and shoot three-pointers, improved his jumper by following it instead of fading away. Spruill also averaged 11 rebounds, three blocks and four assists. He has a scholarship to Towson University.
DaJuan Summers McDonogh, senior
Summers completed his high school career by receiving Baltimore County Player of the Year honors for a second straight season. The fluid, 6-9, 235-pound forward averaged 20 points a game for the Eagles (17-12) for a second straight season. Scoring a game-high 29 points against top-ranked Mount St. Joseph in a 53-49 loss in the MIAA A Conference semifinals, Summers finished his three-year varsity career with 1,502 points. Explosive around the basket, Summers can shoot off his dribble and has a soft touch on his jumpers. Summers also averaged nine rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.5 blocks. He committed at the end of the summer to Georgetown. "In the Baltimore area, Summers stands alone as the top recruit," said Bob Gibbons, who has been a recruiter for 32 years for the All Star Sports Report. "I saw him play last June and I was very impressed. He has that great inside-out game. If you guard him close, he'll blow by you. But if you play back on him, he'll knock down the outside shot."
Jimmy Dorsey, Winters Mill, junior guard
Andrew Engel, Old Mill, senior guard
Russell Frederick, Calvert Hall, senior guard
Corin Henry, New Town, senior guard
Jeff Pettiway, Joppatowne, senior guard
Leandre Richardson, Aberdeen, senior guard
Darrell Bryant, Randallstown, junior forward
Jarwand Rheubottom, Southwestern, senior forward
Darryl Webb, Long Reach, senior forward
Delano Johnson, Dunbar, senior center
Note // Teams selected by Pat O'Malley after consultation with The Sun staff and area coaches.