First-year Friendship Tech Coach Dwayne Shackleford addresses Jaleel Lee (1) and the rest of his huddle during a recent game. (Photo courtesy of Cory Scott)

The game-tying free throw hadn’t yet gone through the net, but Friendship Tech senior Jaleel Lee was already plotting the team’s next move. Lee told point guard Kenneth Tyree he would pass the ball to him, but that Tyree would have to take care of the rest.

So once Thurgood Marshall hit a free throw to tie the score at 73 with 3.4 seconds left in regulation last Tuesday, Lee did as he said and inbounded the ball. Tyree then took four dribbles, evaded two defenders and heaved a shot from one step inside the half-court line as the buzzer sounded.

Before it even banked in and fans stormed the court from the bleachers, Lee jumped in the air and pumped his fists because a foul had been called on Tyree’s shot. More importantly, a year after Friendship Tech didn’t field a boys’ basketball team, it had secured a thrilling victory and announced itself as a contender within the city this winter.

“I was kind of nervous,” Tyree admitted Sunday. “But it was like, ‘All right. Tie ballgame. If I miss it, we go to overtime. If I make it, it’s the end of the game.’ So I took the shot.”

This moment was also one new Coach Dwayne Shackleford could build on. After a successful run leading the Anacostia girls’ basketball team, the former Southern California basketball star moved over to the boys’ side and found another floundering team in Southeast Washington that he could put his stamp on.

Last year, Friendship Tech canceled its season after the abrupt firing of its former coach and it must play this season as an independent while serving a probation with the D.C. Public Charter School Athletic Association. Key contributors such as Lee (Friendship Collegiate) and fellow guard Malik Miller (IDEA) had to scatter around to different schools while still attending Friendship Tech to play high school basketball last season.

Though they made the best of an unfortunate situation, the players wanted to represent their own school.

“It was pretty tough because I was expecting for us to have a good team and make a run,” Miller said. “Going over to IDEA, I had to come off the bench and it humbled me and it made me more hungry. So in a way, I’m kind of a glad it happened. But I’m also glad [Shackleford] came because then I can come back to the school I’m at.”

The early returns have been encouraging with Friendship Tech off to a 4-2 start. New additions such as Tyree, who is on his third team in three years after previously playing at Anacostia and Clinton Christian, and former Anacostia big man Nate Lemons have boosted a roster that brought back a strong nucleus from two years ago.

Tyree, in particular, is enjoying a breakout winter after scoring 30 points in a loss to No. 20 Riverdale Baptist last week, and the junior is “doing it within the flow of the game,” Shackleford said.

Chemistry is also developing quickly and excitement within the school is ramping up following the exciting finish against Thurgood Marshall. It’s easy for this group to have fun on the court when, not that long ago, basketball got taken away from them for reasons out of their control.

“Honestly, I felt like we could’ve won that game by more than three points, but we’re still new to each other,” Miller said. “That’s why December is more of a learning experience for us. By February, we should be straight. We’re a hard working team and we’re going to be something tough when it comes to that state [tournament].”

(Video by Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)
The Big number: 44

Points scored by Anacostia junior Mya Moye during an 89-58 win over H.D. Woodson last Wednesday in girls’ basketball, part of a scorching start to the season. Moye averaged more than 28 points per game in three wins last week for the Indians.

D.C. Player of the Week

G Derquan Washington, H.D. Woodson, Jr.

The sharpshooting guard hit 19 three-pointers and averaged 32 points during three wins last week, including a 41-point outburst when the Warriors’ boys’ basketball team finished an 89-50 victory over Anacostia with just four players on the court.