At Cardozo's first boys' basketball practice this season, first-year coach William Davis told his team, winners of the past three D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association titles, that no team had ever won four in a row.
"I mentioned it to them," said Davis, who was the program's junior varsity coach last year, "but because a lot of people didn't expect us to be that good, I didn't make it our focus."
There's no question what Davis will mention at the start of practice today. The Clerks are preparing to play for an unprecedented fourth straight title tomorrow after stunning No. 11 Dunbar, 63-58, in the DCIAA semifinals at Coolidge last night.
"Nobody's ever done it, and we want to be the first ones to do it," said senior guard Marc Bolden, one of only three returning players from last year's team. "This is what you're supposed to do [in the playoffs]. We stepped up real big."
The Clerks (15-7) will face M.M. Washington, which is pursuing a little history of its own. The Yellow Jackets avenged a painful double-overtime regular season loss and upset No. 15 Ballou, 58-41, in the first semifinal. M.M. Washington began Wednesday having never won a DCIAA playoff game. Now the Yellow Jackets (19-7) are one win away from their first title.
"Everything we've done this week, we're making school history," first-year coach Vaughn Jones said.
Both teams advanced thanks to terrific defensive efforts. After Ballou (23-5) took a 29-27 lead midway through the third quarter, the Knights managed three field goals the rest of the game and none in the final five minutes. Overall, Ballou made just 3 of 26 from behind the arc.
M.M. Washington sophomore guard Derrick Washington scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter.
Cardozo, meantime, used a stifling zone in the second half that frustrated Dunbar (21-3) into lengthy droughts. After the Crimson Tide took its biggest lead, 33-27, two minutes into the second half, it managed one field goal over the next eight minutes as Cardozo took the lead for good.
The girls' semifinals produced the results long anticipated -- a DCIAA final at 6 p.m. tomorrow pitting No. 7 H.D. Woodson, an 82-50 victor over Dunbar, against No. 13 Theodore Roosevelt, which defeated Anacostia, 80-68. This season, neither team has lost in DCIAA play.
Dunbar hung close to Woodson before the Warriors went on a 20-7 run to take a 31-16 lead midway through the second quarter. The result was never again in doubt. Center Jeniece Johnson scored a game-high 20 points, and guard Patrice Johnson added 17 as five Warriors reached double figures.
As usual, the Rough Riders (19-2) sustained a frenetic pace by creating a game played almost entirely in transition with nary a set play or a long jumper. With senior Brittany Hilliard (22 points) and junior Asyja Smith (32 points) leading the way with rapid-fire passes and forceful drives to the hoop, the Rough Riders could rely on improvisation.
The teams were supposed to meet in a nonleague game on Dec. 21, but they postponed it when there was a dispute on a site and canceled it three weeks later when they could not agree on a rescheduled date and site.