In preparation for Saturday night’s showdown with No.1 Montrose Christian, Theodore Roosevelt guard Tavon Alexander went to bed at 6 p.m. on Friday. He woke Saturday morning, ate a nutritious breakfast and relaxed for a few hours before heading to Archbishop Carroll’s gym.
When Alexander arrived, he said he was “scared.” He saw the entrance overflowing with spectators trying to get into the small gym for the More Than Basketball Showcase, and most of Roosevelt and Montrose Christian’s players had to fight their way through the packed stairwells to even get into the gym.
“You couldn’t even get in,” Alexander said. “Jump ball, I was letting it go.”
Alexander’s nerves subsided to the tune of a game-high 17 points, and ninth-ranked Theodore Roosevelt hit 12 three-pointers to stun Montrose Christian, 77-66, in Northeast Washington.
A standing-room-only crowd at Carroll arrived to see how one of the DCIAA’s best would hold up against the perennial national power Mustangs (9-3), but the question had been reversed by the second quarter. The Rough Riders (9-0) used a 20-3 run in that period to open up a 38-16 lead, and Alexander and Johnnie Shuler (12 points) made a combined six three-pointers before halftime to maintain a 14-point advantage at recess.
“Our pick-and-pop game, we work on it every day in practice,” Roosevelt Coach Rob Nickens said. “We got away from what we really wanted to do because of the three-point shot, but tonight was a night when we were just going to keep shooting the ball until we missed, and we did that.”
Montrose Christian received 17 points from guard Charles Tucker, but Roosevelt’s length caused problems from the outset. Talented forwards Mark Williams (10 points) and Therence Mayimba (four points) were held in check, and Baylor signee Ishmail Wainwright mustered just six points against the Rough Riders’ swarming zone defense, which caused a number of fast breaks and opportunities for three-pointers in transition.
“We didn’t do a very good job defending the three,” Montrose Christian Coach Stu Vetter said. “They have very good guards.”
One of those guards, Alexander, was handed the game’s most valuable player award after the win. But he looked spent. The coaching staff wanted Alexander to stay in his “block” during the game — to play within his own space and look for open shots. He knew that discipline would be essential against a national power, in a heightened environment.
“Just trying to get up the steps into the game made me excited about the game,” Nickens said. “Our kids wanted to play this game.”