Each of the previous three years, Theodore Roosevelt made the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association boys’ basketball championship game, only to fall to Wilson. The Rough Riders were focused on not allowing that to happen again.
So when No. 6 Theodore Roosevelt beat No. 7 Wilson, 66-63, in the DCIAA title game Sunday afternoon, many players jumped and fell to the court at Entertainment and Sports Arena in Southeast Washington. They remained there as long as they could, celebrating their journey to the top of the league.
It was the first time since 2014 and the fifth time in program history that Theodore Roosevelt claimed the DCIAA title.
“When I first got here, my goal was, ‘Oh, we have to beat Wilson,’ ” Tremble said. “It’s a big chip off the shoulder now.”
A year ago, Wilson beat Theodore Roosevelt, 92-48, in the title game. But the Tigers lost their entire starting lineup to graduation or transfer, and the Rough Riders added key transfers. The Tigers (23-4) no longer possessed the talent edge, which was evident in December when the Rough Riders (29-1) handed them their first DCIAA loss in nearly three years.
All season, the Rough Riders have prided themselves on defense, and they sought to play a physical game. They got what they wanted in the fourth quarter Sunday when both teams entered the double bonus.
With the game being played at its preferred pace, Theodore Roosevelt came back from a six-point deficit with 3½ minutes remaining to tie the score at 60. Then guard Philip Flegler finished a layup with 36 seconds remaining that provided the Rough Riders an edge they didn’t surrender. Wilson missed a would-be game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds.
“Every game we go into was to get to the dance to play Wilson,” said forward James Pitts, who scored a game-high 19 points. “We got to the dance. It was time to play.”
Theodore Roosevelt and Wilson seem likely to continue to battle for league supremacy. After Sunday, it’s clear the DCIAA playoffs no longer will be so simple for the Tigers.
“I give credit to Wilson; they’ve had a hell of a run,” Theodore Roosevelt Coach Rob Nickens said with tears in his eyes. “But we’ve had a great run, too, over the last decade.”