Carlos Poindexter was still trying to process what had just happened when his phone rang one evening in November. Just a few hours earlier, the Hayfield boys’ basketball coach had watched his best player, Eliet Donley, go down with a broken right hand. Now, a season that hadn’t even started went from bad to worse as he listened to junior forward Montez Wilson on the other end of the phone.
“When I found out Eliet would be out, I thought, ‘Well, we’ll be OK because we still have Montez in the post,’” Poindexter said. “But that night, he called me and said he decided not to play this year because he wanted to get healthy after getting banged up in football. I understood it, but to lose both of our big men in the same week was tough.”
The weeks that followed had their share of growing pains, with the Hawks stumbling to a 3-7 start. But Poindexter saw potential, a trait that is now producing results in the wake of Donley’s Jan. 9 return. After losing to No. 4 Wakefield, the Hawks have won five straight, gaining momentum just in time for their Virginia Conference 6 slate.
“We found out a lot about our team and now we know what all of our guys can do in certain situations,” Poindexter said. “Even though we struggled at first without Eliet, we stayed the course of inside-outside basketball and now, we’ve started learning how to win.”
Initially, Tyler Hodge and Kelsey McCrimmon were working to transition from a fall spent on the football field. Meantime Dalon Thomas was adjusting to the double teams and extra responsibility of being the focal point in the paint. But even as the Hawks (8-8) dropped four games to teams ranked in The Post Top 20 and two others by a combined seven points, they were taking what Poindexter now calls “baby steps.”
“It was tough because with everyone playing different positions, the chemistry wasn’t always there,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t score as much with the double teams, but I focused on rebounding and stepping up where I could. Game by game, it seemed like we were starting to figure it out.”
The turning point came in a Dec. 27 overtime win against North Point. Following a slow start, the Hawks rallied late for a narrow victory, capping their first string of consecutive wins. A few days later, Donley was both back in uniform and back to his old self. He is averaging 18 points through six games.
“I was worried I was going to miss most of the season and it was hard sitting on the bench because I wanted to be out there helping my teammates,” Donley said. “I practiced with my left hand a lot and just tried to get the plays down so I could be ready once I got back.”
With defenses focusing more of their attention on Donley, his Hawks teammates have taken advantage. Hodge and Daquan Poindexter have found more looks along the perimeter, Thomas has used aggressive play to get to the foul line more, and McCrimmon and Jeremy Jones have served as sparks off the bench during their current win streak.
“We’re coming along at the right time and I think we’re going to be even more potent as time goes on,” Carlos Poindexter said. “As long as we’re making progress, I’m happy, because we’re increasing our chances of being the last team standing at the end of the conference, regional and even state championships.”