After starting the season 4-4, the defending National District champion Washington-Lee boys basketball team wanted to make a statement last night in the district opener against neighborhood rival Wakefield. And that's just what the Generals did.

Led by senior Amaziah Diggs's 16 points, Washington-Lee played its most complete game of the season and defeated the Warriors, 52-47.

"I told the kids that the real games start tonight," said Coach Bobby Dobson. "Everything that happened before this game, when you get right down to it, was nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. This is it."

These teams met in last season's National District championship game, which Washington-Lee won, 38-33. The Generals (5-4, 1-0), who returned three starters and nine players from that team, got 10 points from senior guard Yohannes Gerbreyesus and nine points from junior forward Rocky Batista.

Wakefield, which was led by Antuon Townsend's 13 points, fell to 6-4, 0-1.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Wakefield, which also got a combined 19 points from sophomore forwards Antonio Levere and Kevin Tyner, ripped off six straight points and closed to within 39-38. Washington-Lee, however, responded with a run of its own. Diggs scored nine straight points to give the Generals' their biggest lead at 48-38 with 2 minutes 21 seconds remaining.

At that point, the Generals started to run out the clock. But the Warriors were not done. They pressured the ball relentlessly, forcing several turnovers. That and two missed free throws helped Wakefield once again close to within striking distance.

Wakefield went on a 7-0 run to cut Washington-Lee's lead to 48-45. But Wakefield panicked as the clock wound down and Diggs was fouled with 26 seconds left. He made both free throws to stretch the lead to 50-45.

Dobson said: "That 4-4 start doesn't mean anything now. Those games got us ready for district play, and now we're here. We are 1-0 and in first place in the district."