Well, time’s up. The Dundalk boys basketball team has to figure out now if its a team plagued by bad luck, or simply just can’t win close games.
The Owls lost eight games this season. All but one were by five or fewer points, with two in overtime (throw out Monday’s 82-59 loss to Oakland Mills. Dundalk was already locked into the second seed in the sectional playoffs and rested many starters).
Now its time for the regional playoffs. If Dundalk wants to reach the regional championship game for the third straight season, or reach the state semifinals for the first time since 1971 — yes, you read that right — it has to start winning close games.
(Dundalk lost nine games this season despite returning four starters from last season’s 20-4 team. Who knew Gates Cook had such an impact?)
The Owls host Patapsco on Friday in the first round of the tournament. Dundalk beat the Patriots 69-53 earlier this season, but benched many of its starters in the forth quarter.
Rivalry games can be dangerous, but Dundalk should win this one.
The Owls will then host Bel Air or Edgewood. Neither team is a pushover, but home court advantage should be enough for Dundalk.
Then comes the trip to C. Milton Wright for the sectional finals (unless Kenwood is considerate enough to upset the Mustangs in the semifinals, and the Bluebirds did play CMW close early in the season).
Over the previous five seasons, the home team has won every playoff meeting between the Owls and the Mustangs (Three to CMW, the past two Dundalk).
So it doesn’t matter, right? Dundalk was toast once it lost enough games to hand C. Milton Wright the top seed.
But as I’ve mentioned previously: Dundalk won at Dulaney by 20 points. This year, that’s an impressive statement even for a nine-loss team.
And maybe the Owls have just been suffering rom an incredible run of bad luck in close games. And luck evens out over the long run.
If Dundalk manages to reverse recent history and beat C. Milton Wright on the road ... well, the Owls have lost to every team in Section I with a winning record: top-seeded Parkville (overtime), Franklin (two points), Woodlawn (20 points) and Milford Mill (four points).
(The Owls didn’t play Lansdowne, seeded fourth in Section I with a 10-8 record.)
If Dundalk reaches the regional title game, it will likely play on the road. But if the Owls get past C. Milton Wright, I like their chances against anyone in the regional final.
No other local team is likely to survive past the first round of the playoffs. Patapsco, as mentioned, opens at Dundalk, while Sparrows Point plays at Pikesville (which has already whipped the Pointers).
In girls, Sparrows Point must play at Chesapeake, which has already handled the Pointers twice this season, while Patapsco plays at Kenwood.
Dundalk has opted to not enter the regional girls playoffs.
The Patriot girls probably have the best chance of any school besides Dundalk boys to make it past the first round. Patapsco lost to Kenwood 49-31 a few weeks ago.