That day, Carroll Coach Reggie Williams resigned with three games left in the regular season, leaving Leftwich and freshman coach Antoine Powell to take the reins 24 hours before the Lions’ next contest.
“I told our principal that I thought this last year would be on cruise control,” said a laughing Leftwich, who will retire after this school year. “It’s been a very challenging year, to say the least, but I’m still enjoying it and this opportunity.”
(Photo courtesy of Calvin Jones) - Lanham Christian’s Derrick Dixon stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 134 pounds.
This past Friday, the Lions gave Leftwich a retirement gift of sorts by beating St. Mary’s Ryken, 69-54, for their first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference win of the season. The Lions entered the contest 0-17 in conference play and 2-23 on the season, but thanks to an inspired team effort, they hold some momentum entering this week’s WCAC tournament.
Mauri Winfree led the Lions with 18 points while Jahmai George chipped in 17 in a contest that saw Carroll erase a 15-point first-half deficit behind solid defense.
“We had a big run in the fourth quarter and forced them into several turnovers that got us going,” said Leftwich, whose team outscored the Knights, 25-5 in the final period.
George said the team found inspiration from their new warm-up shirts, which have the Greek word “Arete” written on the sleeve.
“It means excellence of any kind and that reminded us that we could do anything if we put our minds to it,” George said. “Everybody was feeding off each other’s energy and trying to get that first conference win.”
The Lions will play either Bishop Ireton or Good Counsel in Thursday’s WCAC play-in game, which Leftwich and his team hope can be the start of an improbable postseason run.
“The hardest part was taking a team that wasn’t yours and trying to bring them together. It’s kind of like taking in a new kid that you haven’t trained and he’s already formed his habits and doesn’t know your habits,” Leftwich said. “But credit goes to these players because they’ve listened, played hard and are having fun out there.”. . .