Osbourn Park's loss to Centreville in the Metro South semifinals showed how far the Yellow Jackets have come since last winter--and how far they still have to go.
Osbourn Park played the Wildcats close for the first 25 minutes Wednesday night but were outscored 22-9 the final 12 minutes 28 seconds of a 59-43 loss that ended their summer season at 7-4.
The Yellow Jackets were pleased with the record, considering they won one summer league game last year and went 3-19 during the regular season, with a forfeit victory and two wins over Osbourn.
As far as senior guard Sidney Sillah is concerned, the team is "100 percent" better than it was in February, and he can pinpoint why.
"Skill and confidence," Sillah said. Last winter, "we were intimidated. When we get intimidated, we tend to throw the ball away and have a lot of turnovers and not hit shots. Now we have more skill and confidence and just go out there and do it. We expect to see OP move up next year."
Transfers Ricky Johnson, from Potomac, and Jorey Malone, from Pennsylvania, have helped raise that collective confidence level.
"They bring toughness," Yellow Jackets Coach Eugene Baltimore said. "It gives us another dimension we didn't have. Other than Sillah, we didn't have many aggressive players."
Johnson saw aggression aplenty as a member of a talented Potomac team last year, and he has seen more and more of that with his new team as the summer has progressed.
"Osbourn Park usually has a reputation of not being so good, and now that we have talent, the team's starting to realize they can win," said Johnson, who scored nine points in the loss to Centreville. "It's just rubbing off on everybody."
Johnson, a senior guard who rarely played at Potomac, said he transferred for lack of minutes and is hoping his limited experience will not hinder his efforts to earn at least a partial college scholarship.
"I should have made the move my junior year, but I was hopeful," Johnson said. "But I'm happy where I am now."
"Ricky has the ability to play college ball somewhere," Baltimore said. "I'm not sure where, but he has the tools."
Twice as Nice
Woodbridge Coach Will Robinson liked the results of fielding not one but two teams in the Metro South. Woodbridge I lost, 63-40, to Potomac in the league semifinals to finish 8-3. Woodbridge II went 4-6.
"We certainly got out of it what we wanted to get out of it in terms of seeing what type of talent pool we have and what kind of combinations we could put on the floor next year," Robinson said. "Some kids closed the doors on themselves, and some kids opened them."
One player who impressed Robinson was sophomore guard Jeff Allen. Guard Maurice Watkins is raving about yet another sophomore--his brother, Tyrice. The Watkinses played for Woodbridge I.
The elder Watkins is not too worried about the lopsided semifinal loss to Potomac.
"It was a wake-up call," he said. "It makes you look at every single thing that you did wrong. I played bad, but I'll make up for that. I have about three more months [before the season]."
Gar-Field Girls Wait
The Gar-Field girls won enough games to reach the playoffs in the 32-team Falls Church Summer League, but league organizers are trying to sort out the postseason field because of a possible schedule discrepancy.
Any team that forfeits two games is ineligible for the playoffs. Gar-Field had to forfeit at least one game and perhaps two, but there is a chance that one of the forfeits instead could be counted as a loss, which would make the team 8-1 with just one forfeit. The Indians won all eight games in which they played.
No other Prince William area team finished with a winning record in the Falls Church league. Seton finished 4-6; Osbourn, 1-9; and Brentsville, 0-10.
Two of the league's six known playoff qualifiers are West Springfield and Robinson, the teams that met in the Virginia AAA state championship last season.
The Falls Church league championship is 7:45 p.m. Thursday at George Mason High School.
From Player to Coach
Stonewall Jackson girls coach Ira DeGrood isn't surprised to see one of his former players, Amy Beard, back coaching in the area. Beard, formerly Amy Wilfong, this week was named interim girls basketball coach at Brentsville.
"She always said in high school that she knew [coaching] was something she wanted to come back and do," said DeGrood, who coached Beard in softball and also worked with her in basketball.
Brentsville starts practice Monday. The Tigers and Manassas Park play girls basketball in the fall.