The Churchill boys’ basketball team sputtered out of the holiday break with a lackluster effort in a four-point loss at Whitman on Jan. 2. Given an opportunity to make amends last Tuesday for that listless performance , the Bulldogs took full advantage, beating the rival Vikings, 57-36, in front of a home crowd.
Sophomore Jesse Locke had 13 points and senior Dominique Williams added 11 points as Churchill (11-3, 6-1) took hold of the top spot in the Montgomery 4A South. The team will take its third straight division title with wins in its final three Montgomery 4A South games.
“Right after that [first Whitman] game, we marked our calendars and said we were going to get them back,” Williams said. “We know that wasn’t our best and we just came out with more energy the second time and took it to them.”
Coming off a 19-win season, the Bulldogs have found a way to remain one of Montgomery County’s top teams with a new-look lineup. A year ago, the team relied heavily on 6-foot-3 swingman Sam Edens (15.4 ppg) for its offensive punch and 6-foot-6 forward Thomas Geenen to control the glass.
Williams, a three-year varsity player, was the only returning starter this year, and Coach Matt Miller has filled in the gaps with a more athletic group that thrives on balance in its scoring and rebounding. Williams and junior Allen Njumbe and Malik Harris all average around 11 points per game.
Those pieces fit well into the uptempo style Miller favors. He figured this team would be ready for that challenge, in part, because he had such a hard time getting the players all together to play in the offseason as they balanced commitments to other sports.
Williams, Harris and Locke were all key contributors to the football team that made its second straight Maryland 4A West playoff appearance this fall, while junior reserve Matt Moshyedi started on the lacrosse team that won the Maryland 4A West title last spring.
“Every day I find out new things about these guys,” Miller said. “I had no idea what we were getting into this year. I saw potential there and some good athletes, but it’s hard to imagine exactly what you’re going to have until you actually see it.”
So far, the team has followed a similar script to last year’s bunch. Churchill had the same three losses (Sherwood, Springbrook and Whitman) last winter at this point against an identical schedule with the home games flipped. The Bulldogs are unbeaten in their gym this season and stayed close in the three losses into the final minutes.
Like many Montgomery County teams, Churchill will be tested by a rigorous upcoming schedule. The Bulldogs were already slated to play three games this week, and with the addition of a rescheduled game next Monday, they are set to play five games in eight days.
“In this little stretch, we’ll really find out who we are and where we're at,” Miller said.