In early February, Coolidge suffered double-digit losses to Princeton Day and No. 1 Montrose Christian, and there were real questions about whether Vaughn Jones’s personally designed and barbaric nonconference schedule was going to pay off down the stretch for the Colts.
About a month later, the results are in. Coolidge (19-6, 11-1) is the hottest team in the DCIAA at the moment — having wrapped up the West Division crown last week after beating Dunbar. The Colts have allowed just 50 points in the past two games — and in their two prior wins, Coolidge beat Wilson by 15 and No. 7 Theodore Roosevelt by 18. With the win over Dunbar last week, Coolidge clinched its seventh straight DCIAA West title.
It’s a product, in many ways, of Jones testing his club with nonconference dates against Dunbar (Balt.), Findlay Prep, John Carroll and Potomac (Md.) — and the aforementioned Princeton Day and Montrose Christian. Coolidge won just one of those games — against Dunbar back in early December.
“This is probably the toughest schedule I’ve had since I’ve been coaching,” Jones said.
Jones subscribes to the popular belief that a team needs a solid back court to win basketball games late in the season. It’s a concept that translates to every level of the game, he said, and he feels confident in his veterans Omar Roberts and Trayvaugh Newell to be handling the ball the majority of the time.
And Jones also believes in the power of a post player who can control the glass — and in 6-8 senior David Kadiri, he has a double-double machine who “is one of the best players in the area,” Jones said.
But in order to win three games in the DCIAA tournament, Jones has learned, a club must be peaking defensively this time of year. Jones believes the Colts are. Coolidge is allowing just 39 points per game in the past four games, and despite running up against a number of the league’s prolific scorers, including Roosevelt’s Johnnie Shuler, Dunbar’s Kenneth Beckham and Wilson’s Wolde Jordon — the Colts have not been overwhelmed by any one individual performance.
“To win three games, you have to be able to defend,” Jones said. “We’re defending a lot better now. Guys are defensively rebounding . . . contesting a lot of shots.”
Kadiri has been one of the primary reasons for the turnaround. Aside from leading the team in scoring and rebounding (he has 26 points and 32 rebounds in the last two games), he is also the disruptive big man Coolidge counts on in the paint — and a player who doesn’t get into foul trouble that often. Considering Jones’s focus on the defensive end this week — Coolidge will open the DCIAA tournament on Thursday night against H.D. Woodson — Kadiri’s ability to stay grounded is important.
“I’m a high energy guy on the team,” Kadiri said. “Basically, I just try to run as fast as I can, to get blocks, get easy buckets, and like, bring energy to the floor for the team . . . and [I’ll] do whatever we need to do to win this DCIAA championship.”