“The kids were like, ‘Coach, we want a redo,’ ” Clarksburg Coach Sissy Natoli said. “I was like, ‘There’s no redos, but what you can do is come back strong next year.’ ”
Clarkburg has taken advantage of that fresh slate. The Coyotes are 9-0 for the first time and have beaten opponents by an average of 32.2 points.
“It’s all a transition of the year before — establish a tradition and try to get the kids to challenge that tradition and be better than the year before,” Natoli said. “You challenge the kids … coming in this year, saying, ‘Hey, can we go one step further and get to the final four?’ ”
Clarksburg was far from that goal when Natoli began coaching the Montgomery County school at its opening in 2006. In her first few years, the Coyotes’ objective was to finish .500. As her teams continued to improve, expectations grew.
“Those first couple years, I’m like, ‘It has to get better than this,’ ” Natoli said. “We were like the doormat for a while. People just kind of kicked us to the curb and just kind of ran all over us.”
Any doubts about Clarksburg’s legitimacy changed during the Coyotes’ best season last year, when they finished 19-7. Still, Natoli isn’t satisfied with her squad’s start, believing the competition will only get tougher the rest of the season. Plus, Clarksburg’s players desire to make up for last year’s abrupt ending.
⇒ Maryland boys’ player of the week: Jomo Goings, G, Churchill. The senior averaged 31 points in wins over Walter Johnson and Wootton.
⇒ Maryland girls’ player of the week: Kaleah Boykin, F, Clarksburg. The junior had 16 points and 14 rebounds in the Coyotes’ 56-49 win over Quince Orchard.
⇒ Maryland game of the week: Great Mills girls at North Point, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
— Kyle Melnick
KIPP proving to be ahead of its class
When the D.C. State Athletic Association decided to split into two divisions before last season, KIPP was placed in the lower, A division. Instead of viewing the move as a slight, the Panthers’ boys looked at it as an opportunity.
Before the split, KIPP had never reached the DCSAA playoffs, let alone won a state championship. But in the first year of the two-division system, the Panthers accomplished both while racing through their division.
This year, the Panthers (9-4) appear just as dangerous.
Led by junior Saveon Jackson’s near-quadruple-double (23 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and nine steals), KIPP beat Coolidge, 68-67, on Saturday during the Uptown Hoopfest in Bladensburg. Saturday’s win was the Panthers’ seventh in eight games and third over a member of the DCSAA AA division.
“[Beating Coolidge] definitely showed that we aren’t to be underestimated by anyone,” Jackson said. “We definitely got people talking at the dinner table.”
⇒ D.C./Prince George’s County boys’ player of the week: Saveon Jackson, G, KIPP. The junior did it all in the Panthers’ win over Coolidge, as he finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, nine steals and the game-sealing block.
⇒ D.C./Prince George’s County girls’ player of the week: Aniya Wilson, G/F, Oxon Hill. The senior had 20 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in the Clippers’ 64-49 win over Surrattsville.
⇒ D.C./Prince George’s County game of the week: Wilson girls at C.H. Flowers, 2 p.m. Saturday.
— Tramel Raggs
Even after coaching change, Loudoun Valley keeps rolling
Bill Reynolds lives five minutes by car from Loudoun Valley, and he watched as a frustrated spectator when the Vikings’ defense wore down and they lost to Pulaski County in the girls’ basketball state quarterfinals in March.
Disappointment from the bleachers was not unusual. What Reynolds did not expect was that, by the start of the subsequent season, he would be coaching the team.
For his first year as head coach, he inherited an enviable situation with a team that went 22-3 in 2018-19 and returned Megan Stevenson, the Dulles District player of the year. Six games in, Loudoun Valley is undefeated and crushing its opponents by an average score of 69-30. The Vikings beat Park View, 68-10, on Friday
The team Reynolds inherited did not play the style he likes to coach — up-tempo, full-court press with half-court traps on defense — so the job opening over the summer intrigued him.
He had taken two seasons off to spend time with his two young children, but he recalled his wife telling him in August: “You need to go back to coaching. You’re bugging me.”
He’s happy with his decision so far.
⇒ Virginia boys’ player of the week: Michael Healy, G, Stone Bridge. The senior’s 14 points helped Stone Bridge outlast Briar Woods on Jan. 6. Then, in a shootout against Loudoun Valley on Thursday, Healy scored 31 in a 77-66 win.
⇒ Virginia girls’ player of the week: Alyssa Andrews, F, Colgan. The junior dominated on back-to-back nights, with 25 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks against Woodbridge on Thursday and 18 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks against Potomac on Friday.
⇒ Virginia game of the week: Centreville boys vs. Oxon Hill, 5 p.m. Saturday.
— Jake Lourim
Transfers thriving at Rock Creek Christian
Coming into this season, Rock Creek Christian Coach Lafayette Dublin felt newfound comfort. Last season, Dublin took over the program and had to assemble an entirely new roster. It was an experiment in team-building, one that ended well as the Eagles took home the Capital Beltway League title.
This year, Dublin returned four of his starters and added four impact transfers: Willie Rivera from Eleanor Roosevelt and Kyree Freeman-Davis, Malik Carson and Bobby Carson from Bowie. For most teams, adding four talented, new players could throw the chemistry out of balance. But at Rock Creek Christian (15-3), where the talent has long been bountiful and the roster is young, everyone knows how to adapt.
“The guys who were here last year, playing in big-time games and getting that experience can groom and help those guys along,” Dublin said. “They can help them with the preparation and focus that it takes to play at the level we do.”
That’s because it was just one year ago that the team’s returning starters — Milton Matthews, James Gross, Zaakir Williamson and Delonnie Hunt — were getting adjusted to Rock Creek themselves. By now, they are used to the program’s distinctive schedule, one filled with plenty of early-season travel and more than a few nationally ranked opponents.
“Here, your talent will no longer just get you over on guys,” Dublin said. “You have to outthink them and outsmart them.”
⇒ Private school boys’ player of the week: Noel Brown, F, Flint Hill. The towering senior was especially big in a 76-74 overtime win over St. Andrew’s, racking up 16 points and 13 rebounds.
⇒ Private school girls’ player of the week: Taylor Webster, F, Georgetown Visitation. The senior put up 26 points and seven rebounds as the Cubs earned a 64-53 victory over Maret.
⇒ Private school game of the week: National Christian girls at Riverdale Baptist, 6:30 p.m Friday.
— Michael Errigo