Falls Church had grown accustomed to encountering -- and losing to -- defending district champions. The Jaguars opened the season with a loss to reigning regular season Patriot District champion Hayfield. The third game, they lost to co-regular season Concorde champion South Lakes. Two games later came a loss to the other co-regular season Concorde champion Westfield. Soon after, there was a loss to Liberty champion Fairfax.
So by the time Falls Church ran into defending Patriot champion Lake Braddock on Saturday night in the finals of the Bookjammin' Hoops Tournament -- on the Bruins' home court no less -- confidence was not the Jaguars' strong suit.
"We were preaching to the kids that we'd eventually get one of these tournament champions," Falls Church Coach Tony Harris said.
Now all the Jaguars (5-4) are believers, after they pulled out a 48-46 victory over Lake Braddock on a last-second, banked three-pointer by unlikely shooter Leevan John.
Down by one, Lake Braddock took the lead with about six seconds left when senior Woodrow Bellamy made a three-pointer. After a timeout, Falls Church senior Steve Papageorge inbounded to a teammate who threw back to tournament MVP Papageorge, who got trapped just beyond midcourt and threw down the right side to junior John.
John banked in a shot for his third three-pointer of the game and just his fourth of the season. He, Papageorge and all-tournament team member Thomas Fawehinmi, a senior forward, each had three three-pointers for the Jaguars, who had lost in the Pohanka Chantilly Classic championship last season.
When we came into the tournament, the kids were looking at the [2-4] record and thinking it's not too pretty," said Harris, whose team beat Sewickley (Pa.) and Bladensburg (Md.) in the first two rounds. "But I wasn't looking at it that way. I was thinking we'd played some tough teams. We should be rolling downhill after this, hopefully."
Dickman Going to College
Thomas Johnson boys basketball players arrived at their gymnasium Friday morning expecting to take part in their normal game-day shoot-around. Then came an impromptu team meeting.
Coach Tom Dickman called his team into the locker room after the morning session and delivered the surprising news that he would be stepping down at the end of the school year to start the men's basketball program at Hood College in Frederick. Hood will become coed next year and will play in NCAA Division III.
"Usually he just talks to us in the gym," senior point guard Darnell Edmonds said. "I knew it was something important when he told us to go into the locker room. It really shocked me."
Maryland's winningest public school basketball coach, Dickman said he has twice passed on the opportunity to coach in college, with Johns Hopkins in the mid-1980s and with the University of Maryland-Baltimore County several years later. But an opportunity to start a program from scratch in his home town was too good to pass up.
"I'd have been extremely happy coaching the rest of my life here at T.J.," said Dickman, who has a career record of 575-134 with seven state championships and 17 league titles. "The idea of starting a program and putting an imprint on it from the beginning intrigued me."
Dickman will continue to coach the eighth-ranked Patriots (6-0) and remain the school's athletic director until the end of the school year. He said he would wait until the end of the season to search for a new basketball coach and that he has not yet identified any candidates.
-- Preston Williams and Jake Schaller