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Previewing the MPSSAA boys basketball tournament

Baltimore City schools have a realistic chance of capturing three Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state basketball titles when the tournament opens for business today on the way to the finals in College Park in two weeks.

Though Owings Mills and Pikesville occupy the top two seeds in the 1A North region, third-seeded Dunbar and fourth-seeded Digital Harbor have to be considered the favorites in the region. The Poets have won 14 straight regional titles, with 11 state titles to boot, while the Rams, ranked ninth in the area, are one of the biggest surprises of the year. New Town, the defending 1A champions, is in the mix as well, but with an unfortunate 12th seed, the Titans would have to win three straight road games just to get out of the region.

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As Stefen Lovelace pointed out yesterday, the 2A North region is a veritable minefield with No.3 Randallstown, sixth-ranked Douglass and No.7 City occupying the top three seeds in the region, and a pretty solid Northwestern team getting bounced to an 11th seed by the silly MPSSAA seeding formula (or lack thereof). It's a brutal region, and while Randallstown is the favorite and has homecourt advantage throughout, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities to see Douglass or City or Northwestern make their way through to Comcast Center. In the South region, No. 2 seed Marriotts Ridge and defending 3A champion River Hill will have their hands full trying to get past a passel of talented Prince George's County teams, including Gwynn Park, ranked No.5 in the Washington Post poll. In the West region, second-seeded Winters Mill and No.3 seed Century will have to get through the top seed Walkersville.

Top-ranked Lake Clifton, on paper, should have nominal competition in its 3A North region, though No.12 Mervo, the third seed in the region looking to make its third straight trip to College Park, may give the Lakers a run. Right off the bat, and again because of the hideous seeding system of the MPSSAA, two good clubs, Annapolis and Atholton, will meet in the

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first round of the 3A South region, though the ticket out of the region goes through top seed and No.15 Long Reach, the newly crowned Howard County champions.

The 4A North regional final could host an interesting rematch between top seed Parkville and No. 2 seed Woodlawn, which just beat Randallstown for the county title. Woodlawn won the regular season meeting by seven, but a playoff game between the two would be at Parkville. Meanwhile, don't sleep on Walbrook, the No. 4 seed in the region. Coach Kelvin Bridgers guided the team to a state title three years ago and has postseason experience. In the East region, No. 10 Old Mill, the top seed, could find itself meeting Arundel in a rematch of the Anne Arundel County championship game, won by the Patriots. That is, assuming, of course, the Wildcats, the region's third seed, can get past No. 2 seed Thomas Stone of Charles County.

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