After the way that B.I.G. played in the championship game of the Annapolis Summer Basketball League on Friday night at Truxtun Park, the franchise might want to consider changing its name to L.A.R.G.E.
The B.I.G. contingent, made up of mostly Old Mill graduates, jumped out to an early 11-point lead midway through the first half and continued to cruise, routing Cinderella finalist Sharp Shooters, 86-56, to capture its eighth championship.
In front of a standing-room only crowd at the outdoor facility, Daon Riley put on a show in capturing the game’s Most Valuable Player award. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound guard, who played at Morgan State, tallied nine points in the first half to help B.I.G. build a 42-25 advantage, then accounted for another 13 in the 20-minute second half.
“It’s always a pleasure and we always compete hard and it’s always championship or nothing for us,” Riley said about running with his former Patriots teammates and alums. “We always play hard and play together. This was great to be selected for this honor tonight.”
B.I.G. led pretty much from the opening tip, falling behind just once at 3-2 before tying the game at five early in the first half. B.I.G. then went on a 13-0 run over the next six-plus minutes as the margin ballooned to 17 at halftime. Veteran forward Antonio Wright powered the way with 10 of his 15 points, followed by 11 from 6-5 forward Dontray Smith.
“It was almost a Cinderella story. The clock struck midnight on us. We just couldn’t get it done,” said Sharp Shooters leader Josh Gerber, who noted that his squad was playing without the services of Trey Quinn, who is the head boys basketball coach at St. Mary’s and was attending a wedding.
“No excuses. [B.I.G.] have been here before. I think this is their eighth title. We were a little shorthanded today. Trey has that ability to be the best player on the court when he’s not scoring. He just has that innate quality. We missed his presence tonight.”
Although Sharp Shooters might have had a slight height advantage with 6-9, 200-pound St. Mary’s grad Ben Young roaming the paint, it was B.I.G.’s speed and quickness that made the difference. Led by lightning-quick and sure-handling guard Camari Wilkerson (Old Mill) and another former first team All-County selection in Mahzi Thames (Meade), B.I.G. pushed the action up the court with the result many times being easy layups or uncontested shots.
Wilkerson, a former Capital Gazette Male Athlete of the Year, ended the night with 12 points. Thames, who now plays at Chesapeake College, added seven points to go with several highlight-reel assists.
“Back in the day, Broadneck always gave us a tough run. It feels good getting one on them this time,” said Riley, alluding to the number of former Bruins on the court for Sharp Shooters. “We’re a really deep team and that allows everybody to stay fresh. So when everybody is in the game, we get to play hard. It’s a plus for us to be as deep as we are. Everybody can contribute.”
Eight of the 10 B.I.G. players that got in the game scored at least three points, with Meade and Bowie State grad Keith Duffin contributing 10. Travis Hyman (Old Mill, Bowie State), a 7-footer who played in the NBA G League, chipped in with six points. Meanwhile, the youngest of the bunch, Old Mill standout Avion Robinson, also contributed.
“It still feels good. Just as good as the first one,” longtime B.I.G. coach Tyrone “Styxx” Jones said. “[Daon] said he wanted MVP tonight, so I let him get it. Daon has been with us many years now. It used to be ‘defensive’ Daon. He’d lock everything down. His game has progressed. His offensive game came around. I love both the Riley brothers.”
Jones missed several games during the regular season and admitted he didn’t get a chance to scout the Sharp Shooters.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Jones said. “We came out from the start and jumped on them. I told them to just stay on them and that’s what we did. We just never let up.”
The Sharp Shooters managed only one regular-season win and that came over an opponent with just four players, so their surprising playoff run goes down in the record books as this marked the first time in the 48-year history of the league the No. 12 seed advanced to the championship game. They knocked off top-seeded POD — led by Annapolis Summer League Most Valuable Player A.J. Burch (Severn School) and Coach of the Year Greg Johnson — in the semifinals. Before that, they had to win a play-in game as well as defeat one other solid team out of the storied league.
Young ended his night by notching a team-high 14 points, followed by 11 from Taquan Colbert. Gerber was held to nine points, Nigel Haughton collected eight points, Eddie Jenkins managed five points before fouling out and Andrew Holland (Broadneck), Mike Parme (St. Mary’s) and Evan Phoenix each scored three points for the Sharp Shooters.
“I think we’ll be back. I want to keep everybody back on this team, maybe add a big man or two. We forgive but we don’t forget,” said Gerber of his first-year franchise. “Things were going so rocky in the regular season, we even had guys quit. We just stuck with it and it turned out to be a very successful season. We made it to the championship and knocked off the No. 1 seed. Do I think this team was better than us? No. But they were better tonight.”
Commissioner Ricky Adams, who has been in the league in one capacity or another since 1986 after he graduated from Annapolis High, summed the 48th season by saying “it’s just a real blessing. I’m just glad I’m still here to be able to contribute to the league itself and help keep it established for so long.”
Adams started the season earlier than usual and the championship game was played in late July instead of early August. He was happy to see the 12th seed reach the final and said it justified holding the play-in game “to give everyone a chance and go as far as they can go.” The commissioner was also thrilled by the large turnout at Truxtun Park on Friday night.
“It’s a blessing to see everyone come out here, nothing going on, nothing happening, to watch the 12th-seeded team play the sixth-seeded team. I was really happy to have a crowd come and support us like they did. It helps support our kids. It was just great July Madness,” he said.