The Washington Post

Boys’ basketball: National Christian forced to play without practice due to court damage

It appeared after three close losses to ranked teams that National Christian’s boys’ basketball team was on the verge of getting back on track. In last Tuesday’s rout of a scrappy Takoma Academy team, sophomore Christian Matthews had perhaps his best game of the season with 22 points, leading four double-digit scorers, while senior Sylvester Ogbonda recorded a triple-double with 16 points, 17 rebounds and 10 blocks.

But on Thursday morning, National Christian coach and athletic director Trevor Brown discovered that the school’s gym had been damaged by a leak and a fallen stained glass window. Later that night, the No. 15 Eagles lost to Capital Beltway rival Capitol Christian, spiraling them into fourth place in the tight conference standings.

A building inspector is slated to further assess the damage on Monday with hopes of reopening the gym later this week. In the meantime, however, the Eagles have not practiced in four days and Monday’s home game against Capital Beltway foe No. 6 Riverdale Baptist was moved to Riverdale at 6 p.m.

“We’re not sure what happened to cause the damage,” Brown said. “It’s going to affect us because we don’t know when we’ll be able to practice in the building again, and the Riverdale game was going to be our senior night, so that’s unfortunate. We’re going to have to use our games as our gym time and hopefully come Wednesday or Thursday, we can get back to practicing. If not, we’re looking at some alternate locations.”

W.T. Woodson faced a similar issue two weeks ago when a burst pipe temporarily displaced the team. After having to relocate two home games, the Cavaliers returned to their gym for last Friday’s senior night contest.

Host B.J. Koubaroulis runs through the top plays from the week of basketball in the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

Though the circumstances are far from ideal, National Christian hopes its ability to adjust during the last two weeks of the regular season will bode well as the playoffs loom.

Matthews, who leads the Eagles with 15.5 points per game during a breakout season, said the team held a players-only meeting on Friday to regroup after their recent tough stretch, when turnovers and defensive lapses have hampered them.

“It’s been kind of rough with the losing and now the gym,” Matthews said, “so we just wanted to get on one page, from the point guard to the center, on what we needed to do to win games and go far in the playoffs.”

Matthews’ continued strong play will be key. The sophomore’s ability to get to the rim using his length and handle while knocking down the open perimeter shot makes him a tough matchup. Ogbonda appears to be returning to his form from last year, when he was a stout presence in the middle. And Jaquan McKennon has served as a spark from the point guard position with his speed and shooting.

“We just have to take it day by day,” Brown said. “We’ve got to take care of the basketball and those are things you correct in practice, so we’ll have to be smarter and let our defense create more offense for us.”

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.



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