Parkville High boys basketball coach Josh Czerski experienced a little deja vu during Friday night’s contest against Calvert Hall.
Playing in the Cardinals’ spacious gym, his high-powered Knights struggled from the field, especially from 3-point range, for much of the contest. It was similar to Parkville’s only loss of last season, a 59-57 setback to Prince George’s County’s Eleanor Roosevelt in the Class 4A state semifinals played at North Point, a cavernous 5,000-seat arena in Southern Maryland.
A fast start, a 13-point lead after one quarter of play, to go along with a strong finish, powered by the tandem of Sincere Barfield (16 points) and Caron Smith (20 points), the third-ranked Knights supplied Czerski with a much better memory through a streak-ladened 57-53 win over the Cardinals in a non-league match.
“. . . We lost in the final four (in front of a) packed house; the depth perception, you know, was a little off there, too,” said Czerski. “I think it was similar until later on in the game; it was kind of like that adversity we had (at the state tourney).
“It’s great to be involved in (a tough) environment this early, our second game of the year. I think this is their ninth or 10th. By the time we get to nine and 10, we’ll be in January, so it’s great to get this (in the) second game of the year. The kids definitely weren’t in rhythm. We didn’t shoot the ball well, but came out and handled business (in the) first road game of the year.”
Parkville (2-0 overall), which won its 26th straight regular season decision, dating back to the end of the 2019-20 regular season, was impressive at the start Friday. The Knights jumped out to an 18-5 lead by the end of the first quarter behind some gritty defense that turned into four instant points, a couple of 3-pointers by Barfield, and a late tip-in by Favor Okigweh (eight points, 10 rebounds) as well as out-hustling Calvert Hall to a few loose balls.
“This one’s frustrating,” Cardinal coach Gary Neal said. “Parkville’s a really good team, and it was a good environment in here. I feel like as a program, we have some growing to do. I think in some instances the moment is too big for some of our guys. That’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the process.”
Through a more efficient offense and a lot of errant deep attempts by the Knights, the Cardinals (5-4) rallied to within 25-19 by halftime. The guard tandem of Tyrin Bizzelle (16 points) and Brendan Johnson, who poured in a game-best 23 points, powered that second-quarter surge with a combined nine of the team’s 14 points in transition or on dribble drives as Calvert Hall came out much more aggressive on both ends of the court.
Johnson splashed a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the opening half. In a game of surges, the Knights opened the third quarter in a similar fashion to the first as an alley-oop dunk by Okigweh ignited a 15-5 run for a commanding 40-24 lead following a layup in transition by Josiah Legree with 3:48 remaining in the quarter.
“You know, in the third quarter, you would think the guys would run through a wall to win the game, but we start slow again in the third quarter and again I’ve got to call a timeout to get them riled up, which you should never have to do,” Neal said. “It’s high school basketball, playing on Friday night. You’re in a great environment. The last thing, as a coach, you have to worry about is effort.”
Sparked by Neal’s tongue-lashing, Calvert Hall went on an 8-0 run before a last-second 3-pointer by Smith from well beyond the top of the arc staked Parkville to a 43-32 lead going into the final eight minutes of regulation.
The back-and-forth runs by the two squads continued in the fourth quarter as two 3-pointers by Johnson and five quick points by Troy Tinch sparked a 14-6 Cardinal run that trimmed Parkville’s advantage to 49-46 with roughly 2:20 left in the game.
Barfield converted 1 of 2 free throws and then a driving layup with 1:37 left to push the lead back to six, which increased to nine behind three 1-and-1 free throws by Cayne Woodland and Smith, who converted four straight free throws in the final 25.1 seconds to seal the win.
“They’re a tough team,” Smith said. “It’s very good to get this game in early. It’s a lot of fun. A lot of fans. I think it will help us out a lot (moving forward).”
NO. 3 PARKVILLE 57, CALVERT HALL 53
Parkville 18 7 18 14 - 57
Calvert Hall 5 14 13 21 - 53
Parkville - Caron Smith 20, Favor Okigweh 8, Sincere Barfield 16, Josiah Legree 4, Dwain Worsley 4, Cayne Woodland 5. Totals: 20 11-17 57.
Calvert Hall - Tyrin Bizzelle 16, Brendan Johnson 23, Troy Tinch 7, Jonah Biggers 5, Dominic Crawford 2. Totals: 19 9-13 53.