With No. 4 West Springfield in control of the Virginia AAA Patriot District through the first half of play, Robinson seems to be leading the fight for second place and the second seed in the postseason district tournament. Robinson (11-4, 5-1) has only one district loss and no other team has fewer than three losses. The Rams have won five of their last six games, with the lone loss coming against West Springfield, a 55-49 defeat on Jan. 17.

"That was a good test for us; we were right in the game," Robinson Coach Jim Spiridopoulos said. "We'll see if we improve. It was a pretty good game, I just think their experience won out."

Spiridopoulos, who retired from teaching in 2001 but took over for Dwight Trimmer this season, inherited a team with only three seniors. Senior guard Tiffani McCain is the team's leading scorer, averaging 16.3 points per game, but it has taken the team and its coach time to get used to each other. Spiridopoulos did not alter much after the Rams finished 17-9 last season, but he has instituted a more up-tempo style than the team played last year, and he has brought in a new vocabulary for offensive sets and defensive alignments.

"When you start a program, the kids have to learn you and what you want, and you have to learn what they can and can't do, and you have to build around that," said Spiridopoulos, who has coached at DeMatha, Sidwell Friends, George Mason and O'Connell during his career. "I think we're at that stage, understanding each other more than anything else."

Robinson begins the second round of district play today, facing the Annandale Atoms, whom the Rams beat, 72-42, on Jan. 6. But the Rams are preparing for the postseason, angling toward a berth in the Northern Region tournament.

"I think the potential is there," Spiridopoulos said. "That's one of our goals is to get [to the Northern Region tournament] and try to go through it, it's just a question of how much we improve."

-- Colin Fitzgibbons