Monday, February 16, 2015
MD's Finest Captures C/O 2022 National Title
Maryland’s Finest - which operates out of Prince George’s County and competes in the highly competitive Potomac Valley Region - has proudly represented the DMV for many years. This year the program has had many achievements, highlighted by their recent Class of 2022/4th Grade National Championship in Lexington, KY.
Led by Gonzaga College High School's Steve Turner, the elite squad stepped onto the floor each time out with an elite coach, as well.
Having won the championship two years ago and finishing as one of the top teams in the country last year, Finest stepped into each match up with a target on their backs and were clearly considered a championship contender from the onset. They opened their quest for the title with a 48-35 win over the Central Florida Magic but slipped up in their next game, a low-scoring defensive affair to the D1 Shooters (TX), 29-26. The usually potent Maryland’s Finest offense was slowed in this game and that left them 1-1 and in danger of not advancing out of pool play. With their back against the wall the championship pedigree of the players became apparent. In the next game against a solid Memphis War Eagle team, the Finest dominated from the tip and secured an impressive 54-41 victory that assured them of advancement to the Championship Bracket of the tournament.
It would only get tougher from there. Focused and ready, the team made a statement in the first round, extinguishing Indiana’s Team Teague 51-26 and then moving on to face Gametime. In a very well-played and competitive game, Finest pulled away in the second half and claimed a 48-40 victory, advancing the team into the Elite 8 against an All-Ohio Red who boasted a star studded roster of their own. All-Ohio has consistently been one of the top teams in the country, especially after the addition of a 5’9 big man. Maryland Finest never blinked and went through them like a hot knife through butter, winning in convincing fashion 53-43. In this game, they used pressure defense to create turnovers that lead to easy baskets and rebounded impressively as a team.
Next stop was the Final 4 against the George Hill Rising Stars; another one of the favorites for the crown and the team that knocked the Finest out the year prior. In what has turned into one of the top national rivalries in any age group, which includes 3 years of National match-ups the game opened with an extremely intense feel that was maintained throughout. It was clear from the onset that Maryland’s Finest wanted this game bad – payback was a top priority. The Finest let their defense dictate their offense especially down the stretch. Competing against some of the best players in the country brought the very best out of this group; relying on their defense this talented offensive bunch used stops to close out the game to secured the victory 60-56 in a hotly contested contest that was everything it was cracked up to be. This win propelled Maryland’s Finest into the championship against Matthew Dickey’s Finest.
In the battle of the “Finest” the Potomac Valley representatives coming off a very emotional victory started out a little flat; falling behind by as much as 17-points. They continued fighting early and cut the lead to 14 at the half. Keeping their composer the team kept believing and never doubted their ability to win the game. Playing one possession at a time and showing an immense level of maturity in keeping their poise and composure down the stretch Maryland’s Finest cut the lead to 10 point at the start of the forth. Using momentum and timely jump shooting down the stretch combined with solid defense Maryland’s Finest took the lead and posted the win to be crowned national champs, 55-49.
The trust the team had in each other and the coaches was apparent in their most crucial moments. It was their “band of brothers mentality” that allowed them to adapt and overcome all obstacles in route to achieving their ultimate championship goals.
Amongst the many standouts who contributed to the title run Jaden Johnson (pictured, below) was the ultimate leader, playing big in the team’s most crucial moments and games. Very heady performances defined his contributions proving each time out that he was not only a top player in the DMV, but clearly one of the best in the country. Dylan Williamson was very consistent throughout making multiple big shots in big moments. He handled the ball well under pressure and earned the respect of his competitors while making a name for himself as a top national player when it counted the most.
Jason Moore the younger brother of one DMV Preps top rated 2019 player Justin Moore; dominated the paint and created havoc in the post. Moore has really expanded his overall game and showed a propensity to hit the jumper and fought hard on both boards. Often not the biggest player on the court he controlled the paint like a seasoned vet and played big when it counted in leading the team to its status as the best in the country. Antonio Hamlin did a little of everything from the first game to the last, he attacked the defense off the dribble and pressed the paint finishing with an impressive array of shots often under presser. One of the key players when pressured he performed admirably when the stakes were at its highest. Jared Turner played like a junk yard dog; he rebounded, defended, and contributed in multiple categories – every team needs a player who is willing to do whatever it takes to win and for the Finest Turner was that guy. He added big time shots to lift the team and was the emotional leader on the floor as well. Chase Williams was a pure energy guy and acted as the squad’s primary defender often guarding the opposition’s toughest cover. He brought a tremendous amount of energy each time he stepped onto floor and it was clearly contagious.
The addition of solid perimeter shooting also played a huge role in the team’s success and championship run. Rob Lawson impressed with his high basketball IQ, he clearly understood how to the pace the game and played a very mature point - controlling the tempo throughout the tournament. Another coach on the floor Lawson distributed the rock and was a great facilitator both in the half court and in transition. Wisdom Rogers grew up right before everyone’s eyes, showing improvement each and every game; as he started to come into his own as a player on the national stage. His play was defined by big time energy and his blocked shots, rebounding, and finishing ability often were on display when the team needed them most. TJ Gaines who is one of the best 3-point shooters on the team and nationally didn’t knock down as many as he typically does – but what he showed and did in response was next level basketball. He stepped up his defense making big plays on that end of the court, focused his efforts on attacking the paint and found other ways to score and contribute when the jumper wasn’t falling. He still knocked down some big shots along the way, but his expanded game, skill set, and maturity is what really impressed. TJ Vaughn came in and maintained energy, tempo, and pace as the lead guard, always staying engage no matter the situation. Every minute on the floor he gave quality minutes, leaving everything he had out there with his scrappy and tough play. Vaughn also stepped up big by knocking down his opportunities from the outside when they came.
Congratulations to club President Gary Pinkney, Coach Turner, Coach Heinrod David, and the entire Maryland’s Finest team for a job well done, representing the DMV and bringing home the coveted National Championship.