Last Monday, after the Coolidge boys’ basketball team had wrapped up the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association title in its own gym, Coach Vaughn Jones stood outside his locker room and pondered the week ahead.
In previous years, the Colts would have had just one game remaining — the City Title game — and that would have been against O’Connell, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion.
It would have pitted two of the area’s best teams and Jones would have faced O’Connell Coach Joe Wootten, a former teammate of his at DeMatha.
But instead of dwelling on a hypothetical matchup, he refocused his team on a new goal: to be remembered as the first champions of D.C. State Athletic Association tournament that pitted city public, private and charter schools.
On Monday night against Ballou, the Colts delivered.
“We’re the first team to win a state championship in D.C.,” Jones said. “I think we’ve proven that, you know, we’re the best team in D.C.”
Ballou (24-8) made it interesting early, using a slow-paced, methodical half-court style that stymied Coolidge (25-6) on both ends of the floor.
After the Knights pulled within 19-16 on a three-pointer by Brandon Boykin (13 points) with about two minutes remaining in the second quarter, however, they missed several opportunities to take the lead into the locker room.
Instead, Isaac Blue came off the bench for Coolidge and hit a corner three-pointer with about five seconds left to give his team a 26-20 halftime lead.
That’s when Coolidge saw its opening to play the up-tempo game.
The Colts opened the second half on a 14-0 run and connected on three three-pointers during the frame to take a commanding 47-28 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We tried to make this a track meet,” Jones said. “Ballou is a methodical team . . . but we wanted to push the ball.”
Ballou used a 10-2 run to pull within 13 midway through the final quarter, but Coker responded with a personal 6-0 run and David Kadiri (eight points) finished a fast break with a slam that pushed the score to 60-40 with 4 minutes 23 seconds remaining.
“We just needed some stops,” Coker said. “Playing defense and rebounding. That was pretty much the key.”
After losing two of three games in early February, the Colts capped a terrific late-season run of 10 wins.
After losing to Paul VI in the final City Title game last year, Coker said he was just relieved to be back at Verizon Center on Monday as part of the team that claimed the first District title.
“Ballou wasn’t, like, a school that we had played earlier in the season, and we still came out here with intensity and wanted to beat them,” Coker said. “We just wanted to win.”