Although Montrose Christian and T.C. Williams are both perennial fixtures in the ranks of the top boys basketball teams in the area, when the two schools squared off Saturday night in Alexandria it didn’t take long for the visitors from Maryland to remind everyone why they’re among the best in the nation.
“We saw the difference between a good team and a great team,” said T.C. senior guard Ryan Yates.
Loaded with big, skilled athletes like 6-foot-9 Duke recruit Josh Hairston, 6-foot-6 sophomore Justin Anderson and 6-foot-6 senior Terrence Ross, who recently de-committed from Maryland, the Mustangs wasted no time getting down to business in their 67-46 victory over the Titans at The Garden.
In a game that T.C. never led and had Montrose in front by as many as 32 points, it was the efforts of the visitors’ blue-chip trio that made the difference early and wowed throughout with several fast-break dunks.
The three combined for 35 points in limited minutes against the Titans and were paced by Hairston’s 12 points in the first quarter.
As expected, the talent level that Montrose brought to the floor was something T.C. does not get to see on a nightly basis playing in the Patriot District just the reason why head coach Julian King strives to keep them on the schedule.
“You always need a test,” King said. “You want to say you want to be good at the end of the year and how do you become good? You play the best teams.
“Whether you win or lose you still need the opportunity to play a different style of basketball, a different level of basketball.”
For Montrose head coach Stu Vetter, the trip from his school’s nearly 400-student Rockville campus to the large and often-rowdy T.C. Williams gym is a savory challenge for a team that faces some of the best high school basketball teams in the country.
“For our team to come over here on their court and play as well as we did is an outstanding accomplishment,” Vetter said. “T.C. is one of the top teams in this area and can play with a lot of people.”
The two teams have squared off each of the last three years and even though the Mustangs have won each meeting, the T.C. players know win or lose they’re better for the experience.
“This is why we haven’t lost to any of the teams in our district,” Yates said. “We play the better teams and we’ll be prepared for anything … you don’t like to lose like this but it’s a reality check.”
Billy Rowland, T.C.’s 6-foot-6 senior center, played against the Mustangs in last year’s contest and knew what his squad was up against, but some aspects of Montrose’s might namely their shooting touch and depth are much more impactful firsthand.”
“All our big guys come out of the game in foul trouble and they’ve still got guys coming off of the bench that are like 6-4, 6-5,” said Rowland, who had a team-high 12 points.
“It’s always good to see where we are when we play them,” Rowland continued, “and we got to see a lot of things. Our young guys got in at the end of the game and played pretty good so hopefully that will help later in the season.”
The loss set T.C.’s record at 8-2 as it nears the midway point in the season. The team heads south this weekend for the Atlanta National Invitational Showcase, which offers two more chances for the Titans to bolster their resume against more high-profile opponents before the final push for the postseason.
“Just like in past years, this shows us how tough it’s going to be the rest of the way,” Yates said.