Langley scored a big win over Herndon last week. (Courtesy photo/Shari Britt)

In this week’s notebook, we cover Langley, Rock Creek Christian, Crossland and Capitol Christian:

After some early trouble, Langley is finishing in tight games: Through the first two months of the season, all of Langley’s closest games were losses. After single-digit defeats to Marshall and O’Connell in December, the trend peaked in mid-January when the Saxons lost back-to-back games to Liberty District rivals Herndon and South Lakes by a combined seven points.

Just in time for the playoffs, though, Langley has started to close. The Saxons started their week by shutting out McLean in overtime of a 50-43 win before overcoming a slow start to beat Herndon, 49-46, on Friday.

“We learned from all those losses to value possessions at the end of the game. It’s those tiny details that can separate you and put you in the upper echelon of teams,” Coach Amanda Baker said. “It takes on-court experience to get a handle of the small things — shot selection, like taking a great shot instead of a good shot, and even as small as a shot fake or a pass fake that minimizes turnovers.”

The Saxons have played plenty of basketball over the past two seasons; they reached the state final in 2016 and a state semifinal last March. Senior point guard Jordyn Callaghan, a four-year starter, leads Langley (13-5) with 12.9 points per game and has reached double figures 14 times. Under her leadership, the Saxons hope to continue finishing games over the final month.

“Wins like last week really remind the team that we’re in the hunt and we can do this. Even if we had a couple bumps, we’re in a good place,” Baker said. “[Callaghan] has a lot of physical talent on the court, but with what she says and her thoughts and the ideas that she brings, I look at her like a fourth coach sometimes.”

— Dillon Mullan

Loss of a scorer has shaken up season at Rock Creek Christian: Three weeks into life without senior star Makayla Pippin, things were going fine for Rock Creek Christian. A loss to No. 10 National Christian aside, the Eagles were rolling, beating up on locals and non-locals alike.

Taleah “Noo” Washington was stuffing the stat sheet, and Sonia Smith and Carrie Gross were helping fill the vacancy left by Pippin, the team’s leading scorer who was dismissed from the team Jan. 14.

Then came the Westridge game. The Eagles were outscored in the first quarter Friday 16-7, and the comeback burst never came against the national power from North Carolina. No. 5 Rock Creek Christian fell, 61-28, but Eagles assistant coach Kelvin Smith doesn’t think the defeat is a sign of things to come.

“We learned that, with the schedule we have, we can’t have mental breakdowns and mental lapses,” he said.

Rock Creek Christian Coach James “Boogie” Washington declined to reveal the reason behind Pippin’s dismissal but said Jan. 19: “It was a hard decision, but at the end of the day, I got to be able to look myself in the mirror every day, and I got to be able to keep the respect level of our kids.”

Pippin, a four-star recruit according to ESPN, is signed to La Salle. “God has a plan for everyone. God’s in control; that’s all I got to say,” said Pippin’s mother, Johnetta. 

Smith said the Eagles’ style of play hasn’t changed without Pippin, though they have gone smaller — 5-foot-6 guard Ayiana Keith has slid into the starting lineup in place of the 6-1 Pippin.

“It’s not really a loss, because our system doesn’t revolve around one player,” Tahlia Washington said.

What’s unclear is which Rock Creek Christian will show up as the postseason approaches — the Eagles team that beat the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt by 29 and Anacostia by 37, or the one that couldn’t cobble together double-digit scoring in a single quarter against Westridge.

— Joshua Needelman

Capitol Christian enduring tough schedule: There was a 10-day stretch, right around the start of the new year, when Capitol Christian faced a team from Florida, a WCAC contender and a Prince George’s County powerhouse. Those games, against DME Academy, O’Connell and Rock Creek Christian, ended in losses for the Red Storm. It was an aggressively scheduled week, built for a strong and experienced team. Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly what Coach Tory Hill has this year.

“My schedule was put together to compete with the best,” Hill said. “But it hasn’t gone that way.”

There is certainly talent on Hill’s roster. Senior forward Tania Hill and sophomore forward Lauren Banks are averaging double figures against one of the toughest schedules in the area. But that schedule was built with a different team in mind, one that Hill had before it was hit by a slew of obstacles: a major injury to a starting guard, a surprising transfer, a player who couldn’t enroll. You name it, Capitol Christian has faced it.

“I fully explained to the players and their parents why the schedule is the way it is,” he said.

Things like that happen to every team and every coach, and having to fight through a hard schedule with a team that’s not ready for it is the consequence. The Red Storm is 9-18, but Hill is happy is with how his team is dealing with it.

“You have to view this season through two different sets of glasses,” he said. “In the one, yeah, I’m really happy with how they’ve fought and competed. We have a lot of talent and potential on the roster.”

— Michael Errigo

Crossland’s Canlas is back after disheartening knee injury: Crossland’s Katelyn Canlas, fresh off a junior season in which she averaged over 18 points, was playing in the Deep South Classic in Raleigh, N.C., as part of the Havoc City AAU team in April when an injury struck.

With college scouts crowding the gym to assess a rich talent pool, it could not have been a more inopportune time to tear her right anterior cruciate ligament.

“I was heartbroken,” Canlas said. “I’d never seen so many coaches on the sidelines. It was just packed.”

Canlas had surgery to reconstruct the ligament and embarked on a grueling recovery schedule to make it back as soon as she could. She and her mother, Elisa, have settled into the same routine over the past four months, driving to rehab at MedStar Health in the city every morning before school.

“She wakes me up every morning at 4:30,” Elisa Canlas said. “We leave the house at 5, and we’ll be at therapy at 5:30.”

Much to the appreciation of Crossland Coach Selina Smith, Canlas finally took the court, albeit on a minutes restriction, just over a week ago.

“She’s back, and she’s making a total difference on our team,” Smith said. “I was struggling without her, as far as having a floor leader.”

Smith, who said Canlas would “stick around and work out with the boys’ team” after practice last season, wasn’t surprised to see the senior back on the court ahead of schedule.

“The girl’s phenomenal,” she said.

— Dan Roth