From Russia, With Game

Rocky vs. Drago. Sputnik vs. Apollo . . . Riverdale Baptist vs. Trinta Athletic Academy?

A top team of Russian 15-year-old girls couldn't keep up with No. 1 Riverdale Baptist and lost, 61-38, in an exhibition game yesterday in Upper Marlboro. The game was part of the Russians' 10-day visit to the Washington area.

Even if the Crusaders weren't so hospitable on the court, Riverdale parents Joan and Vincent Briscoe provided a postgame feast for both teams that included sandwiches, fruit, salad, pies and cupcakes.

Communication was difficult because the Russian players speak almost no English, and there was only one translator. Senior shooting guard Sarah Jenkins said that to bridge the communication gap, she "kept giving [the Trinta players] high-fives."

Yesterday's game was the third of the Russians' tour. Last Sunday, Trinta defeated O'Connell, 83-57. On Thursday, Trinta lost, 54-46, to No. 17 Fairmont Heights. In between, the Russian girls went sledding, visited Russian classes at Jefferson High School, toured the White House and shopped at Wheaton Plaza.

Riverdale Baptist Coach Keith Lynch said, "[The Trinta players] were big and strong, and fundamentally sound."

Trinta has six players at least 6 feet, led by 6-4 center Marina Nikkar.

The most positive aspect of the experience, according to translator-organizer Andrei Zhbankov, has been the opportunity for the Russian girls to live with American families. The 11 Trinta players have stayed with four host families from Jefferson and Mount Vernon.

"For one week they get American parents," Zhbankov said. "There is so much love in good families in the USA. These girls can learn a lot [from that]."

--Derek Thurber

On Line, It's Jewish Day

Many high school teams are inconsistent from the free throw line, but the Jewish Day boys have taken it to a new level. Early in the season, the Lions shot 24 of 29 in a December victory over Whitman, but shot just 12 of 36 in an overtime win over Beth T'filoh of Baltimore.

Thursday night, with first place in the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference's Eastern Division at stake, Jewish Day (14-3, 8-1) opened a 46-33 lead over Covenant Life (11-8, 9-3) despite shooting 7 of 20 from the line. After the Cougars tied the game at 46 with a 13-0 run, in which they scored the final six points in 18 seconds, the Lions hit 12 of their final 16 free throws to earn a 60-56 victory.

"It's been on and off throughout the year, but they've been going in when we need them," said junior guard Ben Shapiro, who scored six of his 10 points and hit four straight free throws in the final three minutes.

--Nathan Max