In a matter of five days last week, the Theodore Roosevelt boys’ basketball team went from a team thinking about the possibilities of an undefeated season to one that had to re-focus on its priorities. The Rough Riders were beaten by 18 against DCIAA rival Coolidge, and then were handed a 17-point defeat against Baltimore’s Dunbar.
That ruined a 21-game winning streak for No. 7 Roosevelt (22-2), but instead of searching for answers, Coach Rob Nickens remained self-assured. He’s been in this position before, and the losses last week evoked memories from his run two seasons ago with the school. In the middle of the winter of 2011, Roosevelt had won 14 straight games before losing three straight games to Coolidge, Wilson and National Christian — all in a span of five days in the middle of February. The Rough Riders went on to win the DCIAA and make an appearance in the City Title Game. The run between that season and this season are comparable, Nickens said.
“I think people put in context, with the run that we had: Roosevelt can’t lose,” Nickens said. “Going undefeated, you know that’s one thing. I mean, everybody got to talking about that, and that was never our mission. Our mission has been to win the DCIAA tournament. Period.”
During the losing streak in 2011, the Rough Riders lost each game by five points or less. Last week was a little more humbling. Coolidge blitzed Roosevelt in the second half last week, and none of Nickens’s players reached double figures in the 64-46 loss. The head coach said it was one of the worst shooting performances of the season for his club, but even a marked improvement couldn’t save the Rough Riders in a 79-62 defeat against Dunbar.
Despite the turbulent losses (Roosevelt also beat Washington Metropolitan 84-30 between losses last week) the Rough Riders remain one of the most efficient shooting teams in the city — a trait that has helped them knock off premier nonconference opponents in Montrose Christian and West Charlotte this winter. Roosevelt has four shooters in the DCIAA West’s top ten in three-point field goals made, including Mike Warren, who has buried 34 treys and averages a team-high 12.4 points per game.
Nickens said it’s “back to basics” this week for his team, in preparation for the regular season finale against Bell Friday and the start of the DCIAA tournament on Feb. 28, which promises to be a suspenseful event given the parity that has been developing in the league in recent weeks. Coolidge lost to Princeton Day and Montrose Christian earlier in the month, rebounding with key league wins over Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson last week. The Colts (17-6, 9-1) have some of the more gifted interior players in the league, starting with David Kadiri, who has only been getting stronger as the season progresses; he had 21 points against Roosevelt, followed by a 16-point, 15-rebound effort in the 15-point win over Wilson.
And in the DCIAA East, Ballou (19-6, 11-1) has won 13 of its last 14 games, and boasts two of the city’s prolific scorers in Brandon Boykin (18.8 points per game) and Daywone Wright (15.3), and have a hot-hand as of late in Carl Thompson, who has averaged 17.6 points per game in his last three.
“I have respect for every team in the city,” Nickens said. “It’s a long season, and its two seasons . . . No matter what else has happened to this point, we play Bell Friday, and then everything starts over.”