Here's a look at the high school basketball teams, players and coaches to watch this winter for boys and girls in public and private schools.
Boys' Team To Watch: St. Frances
The Panthers are coming off a great 2018-19 campaign during which they won the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference and the Baltimore Catholic League titles. St. Frances finished with a 38-6 record and played a tough schedule all the way through.
Adrian Baldwin, then a junior, led St. Frances with 28 points and six assists in the MIAA title win against Mount Saint Joseph and finished with 25 points in the Catholic League championship against St. Maria Goretti. His biggest shot was a 3-pointer with nine seconds left that gave the Panthers the BCL championship.
With Baldwin back for his senior year, head coach Nick Myles' squad should be right in the mix in the MIAA and BCL.
Girls' Teams To Watch: Roland Park, St. Frances, Pikesville
Roland Park won the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference regular-season championship in 2018-19, while St. Frances won the conference tournament. The Reds and Panthers -- led by seniors Mir McLean and Angel Reese, respectively -- should battle again this year.
St. Frances jumped out to a big early lead against Roland Park during the IAAM A Conference title game in March and held on for a 33-29 victory.
"When we got our 10-0 lead, I knew we had it in the bag," Reese said that day. "Everyone was doing what we had to do."
In terms of the area's public schools, Pikesville won the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Class 1A title last season. It was the first time the Panthers captured a state crown in school history, defeating Smithsburg, 61-31. Pikesville, which has a number of players coming back from last year's title team, has moved up to Class 2A for the 2019-20 season.
River Hill won the Class 2A state crown last winter, but the Howard County school is in Class 3A this year. Poly was the runner-up in Class 3A last year, and the Engineers will be back in the same class this winter.
Boys' Player To Watch: Senior Justin Lewis (Poly)
Lewis played a huge role in the Engineers' 22-5 record and Class 3A championship in 2018-19. Lewis filled the stat sheet with 17.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season, helping the Engineers control games inside and outside.
Lewis finished with eight points, 10 rebounds, six assists and five blocks in a 69-41 rout of Reservoir in the state championship game last March. Poly jumped out to a big early lead and never looked back en route to a third consecutive championship.
Lewis is committed to Marquette, which is coached Steve Wojciechowski, a star at now-closed Cardinal Gibbons in Baltimore in the 1990s. Lewis also had offers from a number of other schools, including Maryland and Ohio State.
Girls' Players To Watch: Seniors Mir McLean (Roland Park), Angel Reese (St. Frances)
McLean and Reese were the two top players in the metro area last season and likely will be again this winter. McLean averaged 18.3 points and 12.9 rebounds per game last year as a junior, playing a big role in the Reds winning the regular-season championship in the IAAM A Conference. She is committed to Connecticut.
"Mir has been an impact player since her freshman year," Roland Park coach Dani Steinbach said. "She's been consistent on both ends of the floor, averaging a double-double in each season."
Reese was the key to St. Frances winning a fourth straight IAAM A Conference league tournament last March. She averaged 22.6 points and 19.3 rebounds per game throughout the season and played a big role in most of her team's contests. The senior is commited to play at Maryland next year.
Coaches To Watch: Michael Dukes (Pikesville Girls), Keith Booth (Dunbar Boys)
The Panthers finished 24-3 and won their first state crown last winter. They took the Class 1A championship and will move up to Class 2A this season.
"We've got a bigger challenge," Dukes said. "But we're excited about it."
The Panthers have a number of key players returning, including seniors Charia Roberts (verbally committed to Loyola Maryland), Tyra Robinson and Frances Glover-Bey. Junior Kristen Sterling came off the bench last season and led the team in scoring (14 points per game). This season, Sterling is going to start, according to Dukes. Pikesville should have three starters returning from the state championship team.
Another interesting coach to watch should be Keith Booth, who took over the Dunbar boys' program in May. Booth was a star at Dunbar and Maryland and a first-round pick in the NBA Draft in 1997. He was an assistant coach for both the men's and women's teams at Loyola Maryland and for the men's team at Maryland. He could give the Poets a boost as head coach.
Photo Credit: Whitney Wasson and Courtesy of St. Frances Academy
Issue 259: November 2019