Theodore Roosevelt guard Anthony Whitney was coasting into what seemed to be an easy transition layup near the end of the third quarter Saturday against Coolidge, but he had to improvise after a defender snuck up and made contact. Whitney’s body spun in mid-air, his back to the basket, and that’s when he nonchalantly flipped the ball over his head and toward the rim.
After it rattled in, and Whitney hit his free throw to complete a three-point play, Theodore Roosevelt Coach Rob Nickens turned to his bench. Not exactly the type of coach with a penchant for smiling during games, Nickens grinned and told them: “That was the best play of the game, man.”
It was a compliment of the highest order, considering the number of electrifying performances put on by the two rivals Saturday. But Whitney was at his best, scoring 26 points, and Troy Stancil added 24 to lift the 20th-ranked Rough Riders, 92-75, past No. 17 Coolidge in a DCIAA showdown in Northwest.
“It was a huge win for us,” Whitney said, adding that he spoke with Stancil before the game and the two “told each other that we needed to pick it up.”
Coolidge (13-12, 7-2 in DCIAA) had dominated Theodore Roosevelt (17-6, 11-1) just a week earlier, hitting seven three-pointers in a 69-62 win. But after a hot start Saturday, Coolidge was floored by an 11-0 run by Theodore Roosevelt to end the first quarter, and Stancil’s four three-pointers in the first half helped give the Rough Riders a 46-32 lead.
Coolidge wouldn’t go away thanks to the relentless play of Jamall Gregory (23 points) and Doug Farley (22 points), but the closest the Colts got in the second half was nine after a pair of free throws late in the third quarter from Justin Route, who finished with 15 points.
But Whitney’s three-point play came on the ensuing possession, which sent the crowd into a frenzy. The difference a week ago, Whitney said, was allowing Coolidge to dictate offensively and create three-point opportunities. Theodore Roosevelt picked up the ball-pressure and ran fast-breaks on nearly every possession.
“I thought our guys played hard, and with urgency,” Nickens said. Whitney “is a matchup nightmare.”
The Rough Riders also received four blocked shots from Jibreel Faulkner, and the rematch didn’t require that point guard Johnnie Shuler score 32 points as he did a week ago. On Saturday, his 10 assists were the catalyst for the 92 points, a season-high. His alley-oop dish to Faulkner late in the fourth quarter was the exclamation point on senior day.
“Today was totally different,” said Shuler, who finished with 14 points. “Those are our rivals. We just had to beat them.”