A few weeks ago, Princeton Day Coach Van Whitfield took some time to scout Capital Beltway foe Riverdale Baptist. As he sat courtside, Crusaders guard Nigel Johnson rained three-pointer after three-pointer, leading Whitfield to remark, “You have to keep a special eye on him.”
On Friday, with Whitfield’s Storm taking on the No. 16 Crusaders, that “special eye” translated to a box-and-one defense that contained Johnson during a critical third-quarter stretch and allowed the Storm to break away for a 73-64 win in Upper Marlboro. The Storm (29-10, 8-2 in Capital Beltway) moves into a three-way tie with the Crusaders and National Christian atop the league standings.
Aquille Carr scored a game-high 33 points in his typical fashion, shaking off double teams to get to the rim or handing out assists to his open big men.
“After losing last time to [Riverdale], I had to show that we weren’t scared and to just keep attacking,” said Carr, who had just 13 points in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 18. “Once they started putting more pressure on me, it opened things up for the team and we fed off that.”
Initially, the Storm tried its hand at playing Johnson straight up, but the George Washington commit made Princeton Day pay, tallying nine first-quarter points as the Crusaders built a 23-14 lead.
Carr answered, though, scoring 14 straight points in a five-minute period that spanned the second and third quarters. Meantime, the Crusaders (21-10, 8-2) managed just one field goal and fell behind 42-33.
After halftime, Whitfield assigned Jerron Martin to check Johnson in the box-and-one, and the guard went scoreless in the third period as the Storm stretched the lead to 11.
“Nigel is a crafty, smart player with a high basketball IQ,” Whitfield said, “so we tried to challenge him with that box-and-one and that allowed us to get a little room to pull ahead.”
“They made it difficult for me to get the ball in the third quarter, and I wasn’t expecting them to play that type of defense,” Johnson said. “That threw me and the team off some.”
Thanks to several rebounds and outlet passes from Chinanu Onuaku (13 boards), Johnson (21 points) was able to get loose for seven fourth-quarter points, including a three-pointer that cut the deficit to 69-64 with 1 minute 2 seconds remaining. But on the next two Storm possessions, Carr broke free from the Crusaders’ full-court press and found Anton Waters (14 points, nine rebounds) for dunks to seal the win.