dciaa boys' basketball

Starks sinks layup at buzzer to lift Theodore Roosevelt to DCIAA boys' championship

Ezell Starks, left, is joined by Theodore Roosevelt teammate Antone James in a wild celebration touched off by Starks's buzzer-beater.
Ezell Starks, left, is joined by Theodore Roosevelt teammate Antone James in a wild celebration touched off by Starks's buzzer-beater. (Jonathan Ernst)
By Alan Goldenbach
Sunday, February 27, 2011

When the ball came to Ezell Starks in the final seconds of the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship, the Theodore Roosevelt senior guard knew it was the moment for which he's played basketball his whole childhood. But he didn't have time to savor it or to perfect it. He needed to throw up that championship-clinching shot.

Starks had just enough time to gain possession, take a step, absorb a tough body blow from an Eastern defender and toss in a layup off the glass that swished through as time expired to cap a wild final sequence and give the Rough Riders a thrilling 62-60 victory before approximately 2,500 at Coolidge on Saturday.

"This is what I've been waiting for my whole life," Starks said.

Roosevelt (25-5), which went 36 years without a league title, has its second in four years and secured a date with the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion in the City Title Game at Verizon Center on March 7.

It was the second buzzer-beater in as many games for the Rough Riders, who advanced to the final Thursday when junior Antone James hit a three-pointer as time expired to beat Spingarn, 71-69.

"I'll take three in a row like this," Roosevelt Coach Rob Nickens said.

Starks put Roosevelt ahead 60-58 on a three-point play with 31 seconds left after a nice back-door feed from freshman Jarrell Allen. Eastern (17-7), though, tied the game seven seconds later on a pair of free throws by senior Trey Patterson.

Roosevelt then pushed the ball up the court and did not call a timeout. Allen, who had hit two key three-pointers earlier in the quarter for Roosevelt, got trapped in the right corner and lost control of the ball to Eastern senior Torre Sommerville with about 10 seconds left.

Allen, though, didn't give up. He chased after Sommerville and poked the ball away. After a quick scramble, Allen managed to push the ball over to Starks at the left of the key.

"I saw four seconds [on the clock] when I got the ball," Starks said. "I just threw it up. I didn't believe I was going to make it" because Sommerville was right in his face as he shot it.

It was a particularly tough loss for Eastern, which was seeking its first City Title berth since 1974. The school only has seniors this year, as it will reopen next fall welcoming only a freshman class. Players and administrators said this week how a championship would be a fitting way to close out this era of the District's oldest public school.

"It's just a freak accident," said Eastern Coach Rodney Wright, a 1977 graduate. "I mean, two games in a row at the buzzer. What kind of fate is that?"

t. roosevelteastern

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