Some thought that Walbrook didn't belong in the class with No. 1 Dunbar and No. 2 Southern, even after its impressive victory over St. Frances the day before.
But last night, Walbrook may have quieted the critics.
The No. 3 Warriors lost to Philadelphia's Simon Gratz, the country's No. 3 team, 66-58, in the finale of the two-day Function at the Junction Mixer at Walbrook.
In the first two games of three-game showcase, No. 7 St. Frances defeated Forest Park, 59-49, and No. 8 Towson Catholic handled Northwestern, 63-38.
In a losing cause, the Warriors (4-1) proved before a capacity crowd that they can also hold their own against nationally ranked competition.
"We showed that we are up there with those teams," said senior forward Jermaine Porter. "But to a prove a point, you got to beat the best, and we didn't tonight."
For three quarters, Walbrook had Gratz, which squeezed out a 46-40 win over Towson Catholic on Friday evening, within its sights. But the Warriors couldn't sustain their play for the final eight minutes of regulation.
The Warriors went without a field goal for five minutes until Clifton Matthews' three-pointer at the buzzer. During that stretch, Walbrook came up empty on 10 attempts and turned the ball over three times.
"We were a little over-excited," said Walbrook's junior guard Antwan Wingo. "Our outside shooting just was off. We could have beaten them."
The game turned around in the favor of Simon Gratz midway in the fourth. With Walbrook down, 52-51, Andre Rafus missed a free throw. Gratz pushed the ball up court and guard Shawn Smith (nine points, six assists) was able to convert a three-point play, starting a run of seven straight points, pushing the Gratz lead to 59-51 with 3 minutes, 26 seconds remaining.
Walbrook closed to within, 60-55, but Gratz hit six free throws down the stretch for its second victory in the mixer.
"They played up to their potential," said Walbrook coach Gus Herrington. "They bent, but didn't break. When you take on a team of that caliber, you going to have to play a super game to beat them."
Wingo led Walbrook with 17 points and Porter added 15. Junior forward Jamahal Redmond led Gratz with a game-high 23 points and senior center Rasheed Wallace added 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Wallace, 6-foot-10, was a force on the defensive end, blocking seven shots and forcing the Warriors to change their shots any time they went inside.
After losing its first two games, St. Frances (1-2) was able to avoid a third straight setback, as sophomore forward Orlando Ransom scored 25 to lead the Panthers in yesterday's first game.
For the first time this season, St. Frances was able to dictate the game's tempo, pulling away in third quarter, leading by as many as 15 points and no fewer than seven for the duration.
Michael Smith added 12 points for the Panthers. Damon Fickling led Forest Park with (1-2) with 13 and Anthony Wells had 11.
Towson Catholic bounced back from its loss to Gratz, to improve its to 4-1, while the Wildcats dropped to 0-3.
Four players scored in double figures led by 15 from James Burrell. Tony Bishop added 13, and Richard Rhinehart and Shariff Butler scored 12 and 11, respectively.
"After last night's [Friday's] game, I was surprised to get this XTC much out of them," said Towson Catholic coach Mike Daniels. "Northwestern was up to play us, but we were able to get guys a lot of playing time, and it turned into a positive."
Simon Gratz's weekend appearance in this area won't be its last. It will be participating in a game against Walbrook in the Beltway Classic Mixer at Towson State University in mid-January.