While Nweke and her teammates might not be surprised by their performance, it’s true that this season is off to a head-turning start for Stone Ridge. At 9-2, the Gators look to be contenders in the Independent School League. Just the idea that Stone Ridge could challenge Georgetown Visitation, winner of 13 straight ISL titles, is a marked change from seasons past. The Gators last finished with a winning record in the 2010-11 season. They have not won a conference title in 25 years.
Coach John Witherspoon, in his second year at the helm, said the biggest shift he has seen in the program is a mental one.
“There were teams that we hadn’t beaten in several years,” Witherspoon said. “Once they started believing that they could compete with those types of teams, it makes it easier because your mentality shifts. You just go out and play because you believe you know how to play. You stop viewing yourself as the underdog.”
The Gators’ biggest win of the season came in December against conference foe Sidwell Friends, 58-53. With holiday tournaments complete, the team will travel to Flint Hill on Wednesday to tip off a month-long stretch of conference games.
“We just need to continue to work as hard as we’ve been working,” Nweke said. “We could do great things.”
⇒ Private school boys’ player of the week: Rodney Rice, G, Bullis. The sophomore was a standout at the IAC/MAC Challenge, scoring 24 points and grabbing nine rebounds in a win over Potomac School.
⇒ Private school girls’ player of the week: Kiki Rice, G, Sidwell Friends. Rice scored 29 points in a 67-42 win over Holy Child. The sophomore also added 12 rebounds.
⇒ Private school game of the week: DeMatha boys at Gonzaga, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
— Michael Errigo
A young Annapolis team looks experienced so far
Annapolis boys’ coach Dan Smalley felt optimistic at the end of the 2018-19 season. Although the Panthers lost in the second round of the Maryland 4A playoffs, Smalley expected to return four starters.
However, Annapolis’s best player transferred during the offseason, and then his running mate tore an ACL. With an inexperienced team, Smalley didn’t expect the Panthers to be one of Anne Arundel County’s top contenders right away.
But role players excelled in larger roles, and about a month into the season Annapolis is undefeated in county play. The Panthers (7-1) knocked off Broadneck, last year’s Maryland 4A runner-up, on the road Friday.
“It’s not something I anticipated, but it’s nice when the kids on the bench are picking things up fast and everybody’s finding their role,” Smalley said. “That’s pretty good at this point in the season.”
It’s hard for Smalley to predict who will have strong performances, because different players seem to step up every game. Smalley doesn’t want to be too positive, though, with games against Meade and South River this week.
⇒ Maryland boys’ player of the week: Daouda Dembele, F, Springbrook. The junior had 28 points and 18 rebounds in the Blue Devils’ 71-66 win over Paint Branch on Friday.
⇒ Maryland girls’ player of the week: Parker Hill, F, Churchill. The junior averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds in wins over Sanford (Del.) and Einstein.
⇒ Maryland game of the week: Gaithersburg boys at Richard Montgomery, Friday, 7:15 p.m.
— Kyle Melnick
Dunbar’s dominance leads to lopsided scores
As the Dunbar girls poured into the gym, for their first practice since capturing last season’s D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship, Coach Shayla Williams sensed a shift in mind-set.
“As one of the better teams in D.C., the girls have always been confident, but winning the whole thing has brought out a whole ’nother level,” Williams said. “The girls just have a certain swagger to them now because not only do they believe that they can win, they expect it.”
The Crimson Tide returned four of last year’s top five scorers, but even this level of dominance against fellow public schools has been surprising.
Led by sophomore Zy’aire Hairston, Dunbar (12-2) has used a frenetic style to rip through the DCIAA. After five conference games, all wins, the Crimson Tide has outscored opponents by an average of 59 points.
“We never want to run up the score on anyone, but every night it’s these girls’ jobs to play the best basketball that they can,” Williams said. “The moment you start playing down to your competition or taking nights off is the moment that you start developing bad habits and lose. And we don’t want to lose.”
⇒ D.C./Prince George’s County boys’ player of the week: Marquise Delahaye, G/F, Northwestern. Behind the senior’s 24 points and eight rebounds, the Wildcats slipped by Bowie, 63-58.
⇒ D.C./Prince George’s County girls’ player of the week: Asia Adams, G, Bladensburg. The senior had 22 points and four steals in the Mustangs’ 54-51 win over Laurel on Saturday.
⇒ D.C./Prince George’s County game of the week: Coolidge boys vs. KIPP, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
— Tramel Raggs
Centreville’s odd couple creates a daunting defense
The paths Avery Ford and Mekhai Washington took to joining Centreville this season could not have been more different.
Ford was a junior who played his first two seasons at Paul VI, a powerhouse that remains one of the top programs in the country. Washington swooped in from North Little Rock (Ark.), a solid program that lost in the state quarterfinals last season.
On the court for Centreville, though, they are not so different. They both stand between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5, and they’re two of the best athletes in Northern Virginia. The Wildcats’ defense, led by Ford, is stifling.
“He’s transformed the way we play defense, honestly,” Coach Kevin Harris said. “We can press now without worrying about guys getting a clear run at the basket.”
Harris has a roster loaded with talent but with work to do in the chemistry department, especially because Ford did not join workouts until after football season.
After close losses against Coolidge and Oscar Smith over the holidays, Centreville (7-3) took a big step forward by beating Fairfax on Friday with league play coming up.
⇒ Virginia boys’ player of the week: Mekhai Washington, F, Centreville. The transfer dominated Fairfax with 30 points and 13 rebounds in the 52-49 win Friday.
⇒ Virginia girls’ player of the week: Brianna Scott, F, South Lakes. A player of the week for the second time, she lifted the Seahawks with 24 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks Tuesday against Medgar Evers (N.Y.) and added seven points and seven rebounds against Robinson on Friday.
⇒ Virginia game of the week: Madison girls at Oakton, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
— Jake Lourim