Competition between the best public and private school girls basketball teams has heated up over the past few years, and McDonogh coach Brad Rees keeps it going with a Saturday mixer that includes four of The Baltimore Sun's Top 5 teams.
Rees' No. 1 Eagles will face No. 3 Aberdeen at 7 p.m. Saturday after No. 2 Roland Park plays No. 5 Poly. Last year, McDonogh lost to Aberdeen, 57-51, but the Reds have never played Poly.
"Last year, we had done the Public-Private Challenge [at John Carroll], but this year it didn't work out," Rees said. "Scott Buckley [Roland Park's coach] and I had talked about putting this together, so we made some calls and it worked out. We played Aberdeen last year, and we wanted another shot at them, so we're excited about it."
Both coaches like the crossover -- the chance to play the top public schools. All four teams in the mixer returned most of their starters.
"Because of the public schools' tight schedules, it's sometimes hard to find time to do it," Buckley said, "and we thought if we could do it on one day, we could get a decent crowd and it would be great for our league. In the beginning, we knew Aberdeen was going to be No. 1 and we knew Poly would be really good. We thought playing Poly would be good for us, becuase they're right around the corner and we've never played them."
Aberdeen, the two-time defending Class 3A state champion, held onto the No. 1 spot this winter until dropping two games in the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials holiday tournament. McDonogh, last year's Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference runner up, then took over the top spot after winning the tough division of the Diamond State Classic over the holiday break.
Last year, Roland Park fell to eventual champ Archbishop Spalding in the A Conference tournament semifinals while Poly reached the Class 4A state title game.
All four teams will play other Top 5 teams later this month with Roland Park hosting Aberdeen next Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Poly will meet No. 4 Milford Mill in the Basketball Academy at Morgan State Jan. 25 at 11:15 a.m.
Wednesday, McDonogh heads to Roland Park for their second meeting of the season. The Eagles won 48-41 on Dec. 11.
McDonogh's schedule features 10 games against Top 15 teams, while Roland Park's schedule includes 11, including five in a row between Jan. 8 and 15.