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Bard, the team with no home gym, wins DCIAA boys’ basketball title

Bard 54, McKinley Tech 44

Bard’s Marquel Thompson celebrates at the buzzer after the Falcons’ win over McKinley Tech in the DCIAA boys’ basketball championship at Coolidge High on Saturday. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
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Midway through the second quarter of Saturday’s D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship game against McKinley Tech, Bard senior DeAngelo Fogle caught the ball at the midcourt logo and glanced at the dwindling shot clock.

Without hesitation, he launched and swished a shot. One possession later, he replicated the act, again connecting from distance, extending the lead to double digits before making a Michael Jordan-esque shrug toward Bard fans in attendance at Coolidge High.

It was that kind of afternoon for the fifth-seeded Falcons, who pulled off their third straight upset of the tournament with a 54-44 victory over the third-seeded Trainers to capture the first DCIAA title in school history.

“I’m teary-eyed, man,” said Fogle, who led the team with 18 points and earned game MVP honors. “We put in the work every day. It paid off.”

The postseason has been cathartic for the Falcons (21-7) and, they say, a perfect representation for their character.

The second-year program does not have a home gym and thus has never played a home game. Until last month, when Bard moved into a new building, the team did not have its own basketball facilities and traveled to different locations around the city for practice.

“My guys, their fortitude is exceptional,” Coach Malcolm Battle said. “Ninety percent of the time [under these circumstances], kids are going to transfer. They stayed. That speaks to their character. The credit goes to those kids for believing in the vision.”

In a quarterfinal matchup Tuesday, Bard beat fourth-seeded Anacostia, which had defeated the Falcons a week earlier. Thursday’s semifinal brought top-seeded Jackson-Reed, which had beaten the Falcons by 35 in January. Battle told his players not to get on the bus unless they believed they could win.

Everyone got on, and after a six-point win, the Falcons advanced to the title game — in which they would need to avenge a 21-point December loss to McKinley Tech (24-6).

“Everyone said Jackson-Reed and McKinley Tech were going to wipe us,” said senior Darius Leonard, who finished with 10 points. “We beat the big dogs; now we are the big dogs. We run this city.”

From tip-off Saturday, Bard relied on a balanced scoring attack to establish its lead. By halftime, it had jumped to a 28-18 advantage.

Though McKinley Tech came out firing in the second half with an 8-0 run, the Falcons countered and had a 38-30 lead by the end of the third quarter. Despite another late push from McKinley Tech senior Terrell Webster (22 points), Bard held on and sprinted over to its fan section at the end.

The Falcons found elevated pride in the victory. They made their Southeast Washington community proud.

“The notion that comes around with our community, Congress Heights, is rough — people don’t want to be associated with that,” Battle said. “I’m glad our school is in Congress Heights. That community has done nothing but embrace us. This team is something that Congress Heights can stand on.”