It will be the old guard against the new wave in the Annapolis Summer Basketball League championship game.
Perennial powerhouse BIG is going after its ninth championship, creeping closer to the league record of 12 held by Harris & Sons. In its way is Next Up, who’s trying to make history as the only first-year franchise to take the title.
Wing guard Dylin Borden drained six 3-pointers in scoring 24 points as top-seeded Next Up defeated Stanton Center, 75-66, in the semifinal opener Tuesday night at Truxtun Park. Versatile guard Elijah Davis netted 23 points as second-seeded BIG beat POD in the nightcap, 59-54 in overtime.
Defending champion BIG (11-2) faces Next Up (12-1) Friday at 7 pm on the outdoor courts at Truxtun Park. Both squads consist primarily of players from northern Anne Arundel County.
BIG coach Tyrone “Stixx” Jones is a Meade High graduate and has built his franchise with players from the Severn area. Next Up player-coach Chris Simmons is an Old Mill High graduate and has stocked his roster with talent from his alma mater along with Glen Burnie, Meade and North County.
“Next Up is a strong young team with talented players,” Jones said. “I call them little BIG because they’re a lot like us.”
Simmons sank three shots from beyond the arc to stake Next Up to a 37-30 halftime lead at Stanton Center. Guard Camari Wilkerson used a series of impressive moves to slash to the hoop for 10 points at intermission.
Swingman Jermaine Young, a Broadneck product who spent the past two seasons at Anne Arundel Community College, sparked a brief rally to start the second half as Stanton Center tied the score at 40.
Forward Tre Dunn (Meade) turned the tide with a spectacular follow dunk — leaping high to snag the rebound with one hand and throwing it down in the same motion.
Borden then heated up, knocking down consecutive 3s to put Next Up back ahead, 50-40. Wilkerson (Old Mill, Wingate) finished with 12 points, while Kyjuan McCallum (Meade) equaled Simmons with nine.
Damonte Dodd, a 6-foot-10 center out of Maryland who is now playing professionally in Poland, scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Stanton Center (3-11). Pratt scored all 15 of his points from beyond the arc, while Young tallied 13 points for the No. 12 seed, which pulled a pair of upsets to reach the semis.
“I thought we had a solid game plan and all nine players went out and executed it,” Simmons said. “We don’t have any drop-off when we go to the bench and we bring it hard from start to finish. We tend to wear teams down.”
“I was feeling it and shot lights out today,” said Borden, an Annapolis Area Christian School product now playing at Millersville University. “This is a very talented team that is also really disciplined and hard-working.”
Simmons was hoping BIG would win the second semifinal because that was the only team Next Up lost to during the regular season. “I definitely want to get back,” he said.
BIG was playing without two of its best players in Mahzi Thames and Antonio Wright. Thames, a leading candidate for the regular season Most Valuable Player Award, started school at Virginia Union. Wright, the veteran leader of the team, returned to Mexico where he plays professionally.
POD, which is an acronym for Puddle of Dreams, was not intimidated by the defending champs with diminutive guard AJ Burch epitomizing the second-year franchise’s tenacity. Burch (Severn School, St. Francis) was aggressive throughout in breaking down the defense to set up himself or others.
Burch hit a tough pull-up jumper then followed with a 3-pointer as POD rallied to take a 29-26 lead with 12:18 remaining. It was back-and-forth the rest of the way with Avion Robinson (Old Mill) making two free throws to give BIG a 44-42 lead with 17 seconds left.
POD coach Greg Johnson called timeout to set up a play and Christian Jones (Annapolis, Navy) delivered — driving right and jumping off one foot before sinking an 8-foot runner that tied the score with 2.3 seconds to go.
Bruce Spruell finished a layup in traffic and was fouled, converting the 3-point play that put BIG up for good in the four-minute overtime.
“It was a hard-fought game and I’m proud of our young boys for holding up,” Jones said. “We’re a lot younger than we’ve been in the past. Not too many of these guys were on the championship teams of the past, but they understand and want to uphold the tradition.”
Robinson scored 13 points and played tough defense for the winners. Center Travis Hyman totaled nine points to go along with 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“We’re relying on younger guys more than ever before and that inexperience showed at times tonight,” said Hyman, a 7-footer out of Old Mill and Bowie State who enjoyed a long pro career. “We came together as a team and showed a lot of heart when the game was on the line.”
Hyman is very familiar with the Next Up roster and knows the challenge BIG will face Friday night. “That’s a young, athletic team that likes to run. We need to slow the game down and make them play at our pace,” he said.
Burch scored 21 points to lead third-seeded POD (9-4), while Jones added 10 and Jairus Carroll (Southern) netted nine.
“We just need a little more experience. You’ve got to go out and beat the defending champs,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of the way we fought during regulation, but towards I thought we gave up too early in overtime.”