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Crisfield Crabbers at Governors Challenge; look back at past tournament history

By Richard Kellam
Posted 12/21/23

The 41st Governors Challenge returns to the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center Dec. 26-30 with 120 teams from around the region competing either at the Civic Center or Wi-Hi in Salisbury or UMES in …

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Crisfield Crabbers at Governors Challenge; look back at past tournament history


The 41st Governors Challenge returns to the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center Dec. 26-30 with 120 teams from around the region competing either at the Civic Center or Wi-Hi in Salisbury or UMES in Princess Anne.

The Crisfield High Crabbers are scheduled to play Delmar 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 26 at the Civic Center on Court 2 and on Friday, Dec. 29 at 6:45 p.m. the boys will oppose Indian River at Hytche Arena at UMES.

At Washington High School on Dec. 28-29 the Somerset County Holiday Tournament will be held and include the Lady Crabbers and Lady Jaguars plus eight other teams but with no championships awarded.

Crisfield is scheduled to play on the 28th at 11:30 against Arcadia and on the 29th CHS will face Nandua at 2 p.m.

High school level holiday tournaments over winter break were not held on Maryland’s Eastern Shore until the late 1970s.

Somerset County put together a two-day event hosted by WHS and CHS in 1979. The Crabbers defeated Calvert and Washington for the championship.

Bill Cain orchestrated an exhibition pitting Somerset County versus Delaware. Indian River and Lake Forest played the Crabbers and the Jaguars at the Civic Center, CHS losing to both Henlopen teams.

CHS bounced back from a slow start winning the District championship and a trip to College Park in 1977. Crisfield exacted revenge in 1978 defeating Indian River handily in their 27-0 State title season. Indian River advanced to the Delaware State final that year.

Crisfield continued to participate in the county event through 1981, falling in the title clash both years. Easton defeated the Crabbers in 1980 on a buzzer beater 52-51 snapping a 6-0 streak, Cain and the Crabbers went on to win Bayside and State honors, however.

Butch Waller, the long standing Wi-Hi coach, set up a 1981-82 confrontation featuring CHS and Wi-Hi — the Bayside’s best — to face DeMatha and St. Johns, the top contenders from the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC).

DeMatha, coached by the legendary Morgan Wooton, led the Stags to 6 national titles during his tenure. Famous basketball alumni include Adrian Dantley, Danny Ferry, James Brown, who went on to fame as a TV announcer plus Sidney Lowe, Derek Whittenburg who along with Bladensburg’s Thurl Bailey led the Cinderella North Carolina State squad to the 1983 NCAA title.

The visitors would win both contests, CHS falling to St. Johns 64-56 in Crisfield’s first ever confrontation with a private school. It was the Crabbers lone defeat in 1982. CHS defeated Wi-Hi twice to clinch South Division honors on their way to Bayside and State championships.

This Bayside vs. WCAC experience was the birth of the Governors Challenge. Waller extended the field to 6 in 1982-83, CHS did not play, it became the Salisbury Lions Club Holiday Classic until 2010 when it acquired the title of Governors Challenge, Henlopen against Bayside, it grew into the largest scholastic holiday tournament in the country.

Looking back to the 1950s, Eastern Shore schools had no tournaments but Crisfield did play schools from Delaware and Virginia in the regular season. Crisfield scheduled Millsboro, John M. Clayton, Selbyville and Delmar from 1953-1958, holding an overall 15-33 record against the now dissolved Diamond State Conference, a league established for the smaller Delaware institutions.

J.M. Clayton along with Lord Baltimore and Selbyville became Indian River, Millsboro consolidated with Georgetown High and Sussex Central was formed. The entire 12 team league was disbanded with the exception of Delmar.

The Crabbers had yearly encounters with Virginia’s Atlantic, Parksley and Central all now consolidated with Nandua and Arcadia, plus Chincoteague and Northampton. CHS had a 13-4 record against their southern neighbors, losing only to Northampton, then classified as Group 2, equivalent to Maryland’s 2A. Overall the Crabbers held a 10-4 edge in the 11-year rivalry.

Delaware and the Shore schools that CHS played back in the day downsized. Vienna, Chestertown, Ocean City, Pittsville, Stevensville, Marion, Deal Island, Berlin and South Dorchester were disbanded along with all the former Black schools.

Still Crisfield, although acquiring Woodson and Marion boosting their enrollment, numbers have dropped. CHS has fallen to the bottom of the MPSSAA member schools with a student population of 230, now the third smallest in the Free State.

Delmar provides the opposition in the Crabbers first encounter in this year’s Challenge. The Wildcats last year overwhelmed a shorthanded Crabbers squad 78-32 racing to an early 23-3 lead. Coach Ted Lutz had only 6 players suited up, CHS finished with only 4 on the floor, two lost due to injuries.

Elkins High out of West Virginia and coached by former CHS star Amrit Rayfield downed CHS 58-37 in their second Challenge contest last year. Elkins holds the distance record of all CHS opponents, further away than any team the Crabbers have ever played.

Crisfield has won 8 consecutive games over Delmar (54-65) before the series was resumed in 1999 at the Challenge. The two bi-state rivals are 2-2 since, CHS defeated the Wildcats 68-38 I ’99.

Crisfield last played Indian River in 2005 the series 1-2 in favor of the Indians.

Crisfield’s Governor’s Challenge record versus Delaware is 11-13. In 1997 the Crabbers downed Sussex Central 64-55 and Lake Forest 67-52 in one of their best showings.

In recent Challenge visits CHS split their two games in the 3 years before the COVID shutdown in 2021. Ryan “Champ” Waters had 15 points hitting 7 of 8 free throws in the final 26 seconds as the Crabbers held on to defeat Caravelle 58-56 in 2019. Justin Cohen 23 points, 11 rebounds, Cortrey Fontaine only 6 tallies but 12 rebounds, 11 blocks, 3 assists and steals. JaRon Smith 24 points, 8 rebounds, Fontaine 16 tallies, 15 boards, 3 blocks, 3 assists, Christian Waters 11 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists as CHS defeated Sussex Tech 73-59 in 2020.

Crisfield lost to Edmondson in the final, CHS winner of the East II Regional would face the Baltimore City outfit again in the State quarterfinals. Edmondson and Lake Clifton both former 4A schools have dominated 1A basketball recently.

Crisfield ventured to another venue in 2000, Slam Dunk to the Beach where the Crabbers fell to St. Augustine of New Jersey 75-61 despite 32 points from Andre Collins. The Crabbers came back in the consolation defeating host school Cape Henlopen 87-59 with Collins pouring in a game high 35. Crisfield downed Cape in 1982, rallying from a 12-point deficit on the Vikings home court.

This game was a last minute affair, CHS was supposed to play Indian River, but they backed out the day before.

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