With 12.3 seconds remaining Sunday and the score knotted at 64, Bard Coach Malcolm Battle called for time. After trailing for almost the entirety of the D.C. State Athletic Association Class A title game against SEED at George Washington’s Smith Center, the Falcons were one basket from putting the finishing touches on a dream season.
Battle intended to put his team’s fate in the hands of DeAngelo Fogle, the Falcons’ star guard. His assistants had another idea.
“They grabbed me and were like, ‘Wait; let’s give it to Damari [Thompson],’ ” Battle said. “ ‘I believe in him, Coach. Let’s let him finish this thing out for us.’ ”
Thompson was 3 for 10 from the field to that point, but Battle gave him the green light to go win it. Thompson did just that.
With a defender draped on his hip, he found a sliver of separation, then knocked down the go-ahead shot from the right wing to give Bard the lead. A SEED turnover and a free throw later, and Bard had its first DCSAA title with a 67-64 victory.
“Man, that meant everything to me, bro,” Thompson said. “For them to rock with me like that with the game on the line, when I wasn’t even hooping for real, is special. I’m low-key about to cry.”
Thompson provided the perfect ending to a season that followed a Disney-esque script. The gymless Falcons (24-7) shocked Jackson-Reed in a D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament semifinal, then beat McKinley Tech in the final.
“This season been crazy as hell,” title game MVP Nate Pondexter said. “ … This ain’t supposed to happen to teams like us.”
Despite winning the DCIAA title, the Falcons were assigned to the lower bracket of the DCSAA playoffs in a preseason sorting by the coaches. Starting next season, any team that wins the DCIAA title will automatically qualify for the Class AA bracket, regardless of its preseason designation.
Bard struggled to shoulder the lofty expectations generated by its DCIAA title. The Falcons slipped by Banneker and IDEA by a combined eight points earlier in the DCSAA tournament, then faced multiple double-digit deficits in the final.
“When you lose the ability to sneak up on a team, it definitely makes things a bit tougher,” Battle said. “But overcoming adversity is nothing new to our kids. They do it every day when they trudge through one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city just to get to our campus.”
Pondexter had 18 points and eight rebounds. Thompson added 11 points and six rebounds, and Kwari Harvey had eight points and nine assists.
For SEED (29-6), its season ended in heartbreak for the second year in a row. Last season, it suffered an overtime loss in the public charter championship game. Senior Carmello Myles had 30 points, 11 rebounds and four steals Sunday.
“We did a lot of really good things, but at the end of the day we didn’t do enough of them when it mattered most,” SEED Coach Joe Thompson said. “Being that close will sting for a while, but we’ll recover and grow this moment.”
Carroll girls get first title
As the buzzer sounded one last time, Archbishop Carroll’s players and coaches gathered around senior Ayva Tillmon and started to weep.
After years taking their lumps in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, Tillmon and the Lions finally had their moment when they knocked off Jackson-Reed, 39-31, in the DCSAA Class A girls’ title game at Smith Center. It was the first D.C. title in team history.
“This is just so unbelievable to me,” said Tillmon, whose 14 points earned her MVP honors. “I’ve been dreaming about this moment since I was in eighth grade.”
In the rematch of a regular season game that Carroll won, 70-23, the Lions (21-12) opened with an 8-0 flurry. Behind Kryslynn Stewart’s game-high 17 points, Jackson-Reed (21-9) battled back and by the second quarter had a 17-16 lead.
“We just wanted to show that we belonged,” Jackson-Reed Coach Derek Campbell Sr. said. “Last time, we were missing five players to covid. Our girls really showed up.”
Carroll took a 29-27 advantage in the fourth quarter. From there, the Lions turned up the intensity on defense.
“This is a program-defining win for us,” Carroll Coach Edythe White said. “We’ve been knocking on that door for a while — today, we finally broke it down.”