Some of the top girls basketball teams in the Baltimore area will be in action Saturday at the Public vs. Private Challenge at McDonogh.
The mixer, in its fourth year, features 16 games between public-school and private-school teams. The brainchild of former John Carroll coach Mike Blizzard, the mixer was taken over when he left by Al Schell, the founder and president of 695Hoops.com.
Since the first year, the mixer has grown from 11 teams to 32. Saturday's games, running on two courts, begin at 8:45 a.m. with the day's finale set for 7:30 p.m.
For Schell, whose web site promotes the Amateur Athletic Union season as well as the high school season, the day-long event was about more than just the competition.
"The girls basketball community is close knit," he said, "so there's an appeal to putting a bunch of people in the building at the same time. For the girls, a lot of it is social and then you get the parents who haven't seen each other since the summer, since the AAU season, so they get together. And then the coaches like to watch other teams and they can scout.
"It's a close-knit community, so I try to get the marquee teams in there and then try to bring in teams from other areas that they don't get to see and that want to get involved."
While it may seem that the private schools would dominate, last year it was a draw with five private-school winners and five public-school winners. Two games were between private school teams, because a few public schools had to pull out, but this year each game features a public school against a private school.
Nine of The Baltimore Sun's Top 15 teams are participating -- No. 1 McDonogh, No. 3 Roland Park, No. 4 Old Mill, No. 5 Seton Keough, No. 7 St. Vincent Pallotti, No. 8 Archbishop Spalding, No. 10 Catonsville, No. 13 MATHS and No. 15 Arundel. Defending state champions Milford Mill (Class 3A) and Patterson Mill (2A) are playing, too.
The field also includes a couple of Washington D.C.'s top teams, Riverdale Baptist and National Christian Academy, ranked No. 3 and No. 8 respectively in USA Today's Super 25.
Among the more anticipated showdowns is Roland Park vs. Old Mill at 2:45 p.m. The game features last season's IAAM A Conference runner-up and the highest-ranked public school team in The Sun’s Top 15.
Schell tries to match teams as evenly as possible and that was one of the pairings that just seemed right to him.
"I saw that Roland Park lost a few players and Old Mill was pretty good last year so I figured because the familiarity of the kids between the teams -- they play a lot in the summer -- it would be a really hotly contested game. Old Mill would like to prove something and Roland Park lost just a little bit which should make it more competitive, so there should be some intense rivalries in there for bragging rights in the summer."
Admission is $10 for the day with the profits going back to the participating schools. Schell doesn't charge a participation fee, so, he said, not a lot of money is raised, but since the event started as a fundraiser for John Carroll's girls basketball program, he wants any profits to stay with the schools.
Following is the schedule:
IND vs. MATHS, 8:45 a.m.
St. John's-CP vs. Oxon Hill, 10:15 a.m.
McDonogh vs. Milford Mill, 11:45 a.m.
Pallotti vs. Southern-Garrett, 1:15 p.m.
Roland Park vs. Old Mill, 2:45 p.m.
National Christian vs. Arundel, 4:15 p.m.
Riverdale Baptist vs. Imhotep, Pa., 5:45 p.m.
Spalding vs. Catonsville, 7:15
Mercy vs. Long Reach, 9
Maryvale vs. Patterson Mill, 10:30
Annapolis Area Christian vs. North Point, noon
Bullis vs. Urbana, 1:30
St. Maria Goretti vs. South River, 3
John Carroll vs. Westlake, 4:30
Seton Keough vs. Oakdale, 6
NDP vs. Coppin Academy, 7:30