"It's All About The Game"

Chavez takes down STA, up next is local rival






Ron Bailey, Publisher

Energy, hustle, grit rule the day.


March 1, 2016 - This year’s DC State Athletic Association playoffs, or ‘The 12’, is in full swing. One first round matchup, St. Albans Academy vs Cesar Chavez, didn’t disappoint, with the latter earning a hard fought, come from behind, home court, 61-53 victory.

The outcome could have gone the other way.

Down 24-39 at intermission, Chavez knew what had to change: A team best at trapping, pressing and playing up tempo, the Eagles for 16 minutes were a step slow at the point of initial trapping as well as passing lane defense.

Resultantly St. Albans methodically beat Chavez’ schemes down the floor, where they ended up scoring at the rim or kicking it back out for open shots. Junior center Collin Nnamene (11 points) and senior forward George Walker (13 points) excelled during the first half, the former finishing hard, the latter serving as in important release valve against pressure, then making good decisions with the ball.

Greg Blaine (1) was a load for Chavez.

“Coach Battle didn’t have to say anything” shared senior forward Mike Starks, of Chavez’ intermission discussion. “We knew we needed to pick it up”.

That they did, to the tune of a 21-3, third quarter scoring advantage.

The victorious Eagle’s offense was fueled by its defense, as steals/stops turned into points. Case in point were the 13, third quarter points scored by senior guard Greg Blaine, all directly or indirectly products of steals, stops and/or the momentum generated by defense. His three ball after junior guard Kaleaf Tate’s steal stands as but one prime example.

Blaine’s coach, Malcolm Battle, acknowledged Greg’s 31 point, total performance, work that included keeping “us in the game in the first half. Without him we couldn’t have stayed within 9-15 points”.

Aiding Chavez was possibly a STA (14-13) lineup alteration; starting the game with guys standing 6’9”, 6’8”, 6’7”, 6’4” and 5’10”, the visitors had a clear size advantage, one that improved it’s 2-3 zone defense. With Chavez’ second half onslaught based on speed and quickness, and possibly some burgeoning foul trouble for his team, head coach O.J. Johnson opted to go smaller. The result was better press offense, yet diminished defensive effectiveness.

If there’s one player who epitomized Chavez’ effort, it was Starks. Look no further than a 10 second, fourth quarter sequence in which he dove to corral a loose ball on Chavez’ side of the floor, passed it to a teammate, immediately jumped off the floor, and when seeing STA fast breaking stopped their layup 94 feet away.

Earlier in the day “Coach Battle told me to go get mine” said Starks, who also shared “The staff told me I had to get the 50-50 balls. And that’s what I did”.

His spectacular hustle sequence and later free throws with 3:25 to play – Starks’ only points – put Chavez ahead 53-50. After another 50-50 ball he won, the team led by four. Tate hit five of six charity stripe attempts within the last 27 seconds to seal the deal.

Chavez (21-10) has a stiffer challenge in ‘The 12’ this evening, when the Eagles travel within Northeast, WDC to face HD Woodson, one of the area’s best teams. A neighborhood affair – the players and coaches are well away of each other and maintain friendships – action starts at 6p.

Can the Eagles again use their quickness and toughness to prevail, or will the Warriors win based on their two leaders – Antwan Walker and Keon Boyd – plus teammates playing off of them.

Ward 7 will be rocking tonight.

Recruiting Update:

Mike Starks - 6'2", 175 pound senior guard, Chavez - Starks is an excellent glue guy, a player that can rebound, defend, pass and hit threes. Competiting might be his best quality.

A lefty, his must become a better ball handler with both hands and burnish his stop and pop shot.

D3's and JUCO schools should be all over him; Starks understands what is needed to win, has a fairly high upside, and competes.

Coaches claim they value those traits. We will see if they do in Starks' case.

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