Since winning the Virginia AAA state girls' basketball title in March, the Forest Park players have scattered. Six graduated, and returning standouts such as Monica Wright, Ashleigh Braxton and Courtney Portell have been involved with various AAU teams and other obligations. Coach Chrissy Kelly has been traveling much of the summer.
It has not been a splintering so much as a breather, though the victories have continued to mount. The Bruins, who won their final 20 games last winter, will tote an unbeaten Falls Church summer league record into the playoffs that begin Monday.
"There was a lot of stress last year, and I think it's a good break for us not to be all together all the time," said Kelly, whose Bruins (26-3) became the only Prince William County girls' basketball team other than Gar-Field (1975, '98) to win a state title.
"It's kind of tough, kind of different. We hope to get back in the strong swing of things in September. We've spent a lot of time together the past four years and it's just been a good break for all of us. Everybody is pretty busy doing more individual stuff . . . where last [summer] you pretty much had the core there every single game."
The Bruins had to forfeit playoff games in the Westfield summer league for lack of participants. Many team members have been playing elsewhere. All-Met selection Wright scored 24 points for the Maryland Mystics in their quarterfinal loss in the 15-under AAU national tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C. All-Northwestern Region point guard Ashleigh Braxton also has been active with different basketball ventures.
Both Wright and Braxton are rising juniors and, along with senior Portell (who has played soccer this summer), form the backbone of a team that would seem to have legitimate hopes of repeating as state champion. That trio combined for 42 of 59 points in the state final against Woodrow Wilson.
"I see a lot of growth," Kelly said. "I always told my players something happens between your sophomore and junior year. There's just this growth spurt because you go from kind of a new kid on the block [who's] somewhat experienced to a young experienced adult. . . . I hate to harp on the six seniors, but those six seniors were the heart and soul of this program. The younger players could always look up to them. . . . It's time to be accountable."
The addition of Hylton transfer Griselda Shutermeja (8.3 ppg last season), a senior forward, has softened the first true graduation hit in the four-year history of the program. Another player who could crack the starting lineup is senior Carolyn Scott, a longtime reserve who has impressed Kelly this summer.
Forest Park will face McLean in the first round of the Falls Church league playoffs at 7:45 p.m. Monday at George Mason High School. If the Bruins win, they would face the Robinson-Lake Braddock winner at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, also at George Mason.
The league final is at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Falls Church Community Center.
A Successful Season Ends
When Dumfries Post 28 Manager Ted Lyons asked catcher Nick Arrington about pitch locations at the state American Legion tournament in Winchester earlier this week, Arrington replied that it didn't seem to matter where the pitches were: Opposing batters seemed to be teeing off on them regardless.
And that's how the Dumfries team, which prided itself on a deep pitching staff, gave up 25 runs in two games to make a quick exit in the eight-team state tournament.
District 16 champion Post 28 was the first Prince William team to qualify for the state event since a team based out of Gar-Field did so in 1997. Dumfries (23-9) lost 13-2 to Richmond-based team Lakeside Post 125, and 12-8 to Denbigh Post 368, from the Tidewater area.
"Those guys were just slamming it, hitting everything," Lyons said. "Just because we were two and out you can't be upset. We should be proud of what these guys did all season, to take a team and blend like this and do this well considering a lot of teams have been together for years. Hopefully, this is something we can improve on every year, instead of saying, 'Oh, it's just the Dumfries team' it will be, 'Oh, here comes Dumfries Post 28.' "
The Post 28 team was made up mostly of players from Forest Park and Gar-Field high schools.
In the loss to Denbigh, John Malene went 3 for 5 with a homer, and Brett Lyons went 3 for 3 with two walks.
Ted Lyons said the Post 28 junior team also won the District 16 title to qualify for its state tournament in Lynchburg.
Stonewall Jackson senior wrestler Nathaniel Barbee retained his all-American status by placing sixth in the 119-pound junior freestyle weight class at the ASICS/Vaughan Junior & Cadet National Championships in Fargo, N.D., last month.
The top eight finishers in each class earn the all-American distinction. Barbee was eighth at 112 at the event last summer. This year he won his first six matches and dropped his last three.
Manassas Park junior Todd Smoot (135) went 4-2 in both the cadet Greco-Roman and cadet freestyle categories but did not place in the top eight.
Other Prince William area wrestlers who competed in Fargo include Gar-Field's Zumar Archer (160), Gar-Field's George Calvert (215), Forest Park's Tariq Johnson (145), Osbourn Park's Dan Miller (160), Stonewall Jackson's Yilbert Ortega (171) and Osbourn Park's Mark Van Pelt (145).
Redd on Fire
Hylton graduate Adam Redd struck out 11 batters in pitching 82/3 innings of the Bethesda Big Train's 5-4 win over the Herndon Braves in the Clark Griffith Collegiate Baseball League championship Friday.
Entering the championship, Virginia Tech player Redd had posted a 1.19 ERA this season, with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks. He was named an all-star in the wooden bat league earlier in the summer.
The Big Train won the best-of-five series, three games to one, over Herndon and this week will play in the All American Amateur Baseball Association national tournament in Johnstown, Pa.
Recent Potomac graduate Mike Giarrizzi batted .289 for the Vienna Senators and notched a 1.62 ERA in 162/3 innings. The 2004 All-Extra player of the year will play at Christopher Newport.
Other local players who saw Clark Griffith action this summer include Bethesda reliever John Adams (Potomac/Louisburg Junior College), Reston Hawks catcher Tyler Childress (Forest Park/Longwood) and Herndon pitcher Jess Stewart (Osbourn/Notre Dame).
Tommy Dewland, of Woodbridge, has qualified to compete in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii in October after finishing second in his age group at the Ironman USA Triathlon on July 25 in Lake Placid, N.Y. It was his first such competition.
Dewland's time of 10 hours 26 minutes 40 seconds was the best by an American for 18- to 24-year-old males. The Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mike bike ride and 26.2-mile run.
Dewland, a third-year medical student at Yale, attended Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County.
Brothers Win Gold, Silver Manassas resident Brandon Withers, 10, won the 2004 Blue Belt national championship in the United States Tae Kwon Do Union's Junior Olympics earlier this summer in Atlanta.
Withers, competing in his third Junior Olympic nationals, beat state champions from Colorado, California, Maryland and, in the final, Washington.
His brother, Tyler, 6, also a blue belt, received a silver medal. Both boys attend Baldwin Elementary School.
The weeklong event was sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee.