The St. John’s boys’ basketball team endured quite the adventure Friday. The Cadets were slated to play Saturday against Great Bridge at the MLK Roundball Classic in Portsmouth, Va., and as Coach Sean McAloon understood it, the team’s travel, hotel and food would be covered by tournament officials.
However, just before the team boarded the bus, McAloon received a call from the hotel saying that their rooms might be in jeopardy. A few minutes later, a tournament official called and reassured McAloon that everything was fine, but when McAloon asked to speak with the tournament director, the official said he was “indisposed at the moment.”
“When he said ‘indisposed’, I didn’t know what he meant, but I asked him if everything was still good and he said yes, so we got on the bus and left,” McAloon said.
Midway through the trip, the Cadets found out that things weren’t all good. The bus driver called McAloon to the front and said the tournament official was now refusing to pay the transportation bill. When McAloon called the official for an explanation, he found out more bad news: the tournament director had been arrested, leading to the expense issues.
“When he told me that, I said that’s it out, we’re out,” McAloon said. “He kept saying he’d love to have us if we could pay our way, but after going back on their promise to pay for the rooms, travel and food, and now asking us to drive ourselves, arrive at 1 in the morning and then play the next afternoon, that’s ridiculous.”
The Cadets turned the bus around and headed back to school, where they will have eight days off before returning to action Saturday aginst Good Counsel.
Michael Wolfe and his Georgetown Prep teammates thought it was all coming together. Fresh off last year’s run to the Interstate Athletic Conference title game, the Little Hoyas opened the season with two wins and a near-upset of top-ranked Gonzaga.
Then came four losses in their next six games, including 18-point and 26-point blowouts at the hands of Good Counsel and Sidwell Friends, respectively. If that wasn’t enough, the Little Hoyas were bounced from the first round of their own holiday tournament on a last-second shot to fall to 5-6.
“The Good Counsel and Sidwell games were two eye openers,” Wolfe said. “We had a players’ meeting after both of those losses and said we couldn’t continue to be this inconsistent. We were beating ourselves a lot of the time.”
The Little Hoyas didn’t wait until 2013 to turn things around. Following the heartbreaking tournament loss to Jesuit (La.), they soundly beat Regis (N.Y.) on Dec. 28 to spark what now stands as a six-game win streak. Three of those wins have come in the IAC, tying them with favorite Bullis as the lone teams undefeated in conference play.
“We have four senior starters who have lots of experience from last year, so the potential was there,” Coach Herb Krusen said. “Guys have been buying in of late and our chemistry has improved, where we have a lot of balance with a handful of guys who can score on any given night.”
Wolfe, who is committed to play at Loyola (Md.), is averaging 13.1 points to pace three double-digit scorers in Alex Fabean-Scotch (11.9) and Brandon Green (10.2). Wolfe has been especially impressive in IAC play, recording 19 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks in the opener against St. Albans before going for 23 points and 12 boards in a win against St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes.
“We just have to make sure we have each other’s back every time we step on the floor,” Wolfe said. “Every game won’t be great, but if we work on finishing games strong and keep our chemistry going, we can continue to do well.”
When David McCloud entered Jewish Day’s new weight room on the first day of preseason training, he couldn’t believe his eyes. All fifteen players on both the varsity and JV teams were present and ready to put in the work necessary to improve on last year’s 12-10 campaign.
“We had a terrible playoff loss last year, so I think the kids came back determined and it showed on that first day,” said McCloud, who is in his second year as coach. “We’re not the biggest team but I don’t think there’s anybody who outworks us.”
The Lions have proven this much during their 9-2 start, knocking off the league’s last two champions in Covenant Life and Grace Brethren-Clinton. At 9-1, the Lions sit in first in the PVAC and have already avenged their lone loss to McLean School, a game in which they were without Danny Kravitz, their second-leading scorer. The junior guard returned in the Jan. 3 rematch to score a game-high 21 points with five three-pointers during the 65-55 win.
“We came in with the goal of being the best in our conference,” Kravitz said, “and with us being in our second year under Coach (McCloud), we know who we are and can push ourselves to the point we’re at now.”
McCloud said the Lions run a five-out motion offense similar to West Virginia’s, which looks to create open shots off screens and backdoor cuts. What the Lions lack in size, they make up for with sharpshooting and a high basketball IQ that allows them to quickly switch in and out of defensive sets and disrupt the opponent.
Ethan Walfish has flourished in this system. The junior guard is averaging a team-high 18.5 points and has twice pulled down 10 rebounds in a game.
“Ethan is such a great scorer and really takes some pressure off me so I can do a little bit of everything,” Kravitz said. “It’s clear that we’re not as good when he’s not on the court.”