Letters of Interest: New era of city hoops champions begins


Coolidge and Ballou battled Monday in the inaugural DCSAA championship at the Verizon Center (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post).

When Trayvaughn Newell first heard about the city championship’s new format, the Coolidge senior was not impressed. Just a year before, Newell and the Colts had fallen to Paul VI in the Abe Pollin City Title Game and with Coolidge beginning to peak in the second half of this season, revenge against the WCAC was on Newell’s mind.

But as he held the golden ball trophy on the Verizon Center floor Monday following Coolidge’s 69-47 win against Ballou in the inaugural D.C. State Athletic Association championship, Newell admitted to a change of heart.

“Ehhh, I didn’t really like the new tournament at first,” Newell said with a grin. “But as we got into it and we had a chance to build more games and momentum, it got better. Now after winning it all…yeah, I like it now.”

And he wasn’t alone.

While some will still long for the old format and others (including myself) will dream of a tournament crowning an overall area champ, several of the fans I talked to Monday expressed pride in crowning a “true D.C. champion.”

All in all, the turnout proved decent (the official count wasn’t immediately available but my not-so-exact eye would guess 500), as fans spread throughout the lower bowl of seats at the Verizon Center, cheering on their respective teams while both school’s bands blared rhythmic tunes.

Mayor Vincent Gray, the spark behind the DCSAA’s formation, was in the house, as was the organization’s director of athletics, Clark Ray, who was pleased with the end result.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better first tournament and it’s great to see D.C. students competing for their city championship,” Ray said afterward. “My responsibility is to the students in the District of Columbia and everyone I’ve talked to has been supportive of the new format, which is no different than Maryland or Virginia having their own tournaments as they do.”

Ray acknowledged that, naturally, some tinkering would likely happen in the coming years, especially with the eligible WCAC schools (Gonzaga, Carroll and St. John’s) expected to join the bracket after conflicts with previously scheduled postseason tournaments prevented them from competing this year. But those discussions would come later — after he and other DCSAA officials had time to unwind from the the eight-team, three-round tournament and, more importantly, after H.D. Woodson and Coolidge had a chance to savor their triumphs.

The victory created a unique perspective for Coolidge Coach Vaughn Jones, who played in the City Title Game two decades ago with DeMatha, coached in what would be the final City Title Game last year and now won the inaugural DCSAA crown.

“It feels like Coolidge has come full circle. We made it to four straight DCIAA semifinals and then finally won our league last year but lost in the City Title Game. So to be the first D.C. champs in history, it’s like getting that monkey off our back,” Jones said. “With the new format, I told the guys we had a chance to be special. And while there might be a few changes in the future as they work to keep it going, I’m glad to say we’re the first team to have won it.”

In the girls’ championship, No. 8 H.D. Woodson defeated Georgetown Day, 60-42.

VIDEO OF THE DAY
B.J. Koubaroulis brings us another week of the area’s top plays.

NUMBER CRUNCH: 5
Days left in the area’s basketball season. The Maryland boys’ champions will be decided this weekend, bringing another exciting, whirlwind basketball season to an end.

BREAKFAST LINKS
– Check out the latest Post top 20 basketball rankings. Next week, we’ll release our final rankings before gearing up for the spring sports season.

– Heading to its fourth straight Maryland 4A state tournament appearance, Eleanor Roosevelt has exemplified consistency with its play.

– Gonzaga, O’Connell and DeMatha prepare for a strong field of opponents at this week’s Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament.

– On the girls’ side, St. John’s backed up its No. 1 ranking, beating Spalding, 54-44, to win the Bishop Walsh Girls Invitational behind 18 points and 12 rebounds from tournament MVP Tori Oliver.

– Westfield’s Nathan Kiley won the 800 meters at the New Balance Indoor Nationals to serve as the area’s lone champion.

WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
Spring sports
Monday marked the beginning of spring sports competition, so with basketball on hold until Thursday and the weather relatively nice, now’s a good time to get a preview of what’s to come on the sports slate.

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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Preston Williams · March 11, 2013

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