It was important for the Patriots to start the season off strong and get a few wins under their belt in order to prepare for the heart of their schedule in late January. The Patriots stepped on the court for the first time on Dec. 10 at home against Blair. However, their season officially started the week before against Springbrook, but the Blue Devils forfeited giving the Patriots the early season win.
As for the game against the Blazers, they started out slow. After the first quarter, the Patriots found themselves down 19-12. Blair’s Alfred Worrell scored 15 of the Blazer’s 19 points in the first quarter. In the second, the Patriots found their footing and closed the gap to six at halftime.
In junior guard Will Margaritas and senior forward Hubert Bayigamba’s first game as Patriots they combined for 35 points and kept the Patriots in the game. Even so, the Patriots couldn’t put together a comeback in the fourth quarter and lost 64-56.
Next, the Patriots travelled to Watkins Mill to take on the Wolverines on Jan. 13. The two big men for Watkins Mill blocked almost everything in sight, racking up over 15 blocks on the night. As a result, the Patriots couldn’t get anything going inside and it was a low scoring game, being only 25-22 at the half with the Patriots holding the lead.
Bayigamba was the only Patriot to score in double figures, and the bench wasn’t much help only providing the team with 14 points. In the end, it was the Patriots’ inability to score when they needed it most, as they fell to the Wolverines 48-42.
Following two straight losses, it was important for the Patriots to get back on track in a winnable game against Rockville. They would attempt to do so while undermanned, playing without one of their top guards, senior Jack Lvovsky. This meant the Patriots would need other players, such as junior guards Dallas Dean, Jayden Rowe and Miller Romm to step up in his place. Even though the three combined for 10 points, they gave the team quality minutes down the stretch and Rowe stole the ball and laid in a fast break lay-up in the final minute to seal the 55-53 win for the Patriots.
They took that momentum into their Winter Break tournament, where they played two games in two days. On Dec. 26, the Patriots were victorious against Liberty and moved on to face Seneca Valley in the championship. In the final, four players scored 12 or more including junior forward Normand Bayigamba, who had a season-high 17 leading the team to a first place finish. Both Hubert Bayigamba and Margaritas were named to the All-Tournament team for their astounding play. “Winning the championship with my guys was what was most important to me. We fought hard all weekend and really deserved to win that thing,” Margaritas said.
In their next matchup, the team played Whitman on Jan. 3. Rowe came up huge for the Patriots throughout the game, knocking down four threes and finishing with a season-high 14 points. The Patriots benefitted from a 20 point third quarter which was their highest scoring quarter of the season and held a 36-33 lead heading into the fourth. When the offense was stagnant in the fourth, the team got opportunistic baskets from Romm and Margaritas that helped them regain the lead with under 30 seconds remaining.
The Vikings had a chance to tie or take the lead on the final possession. With just over one second left, a Vikings center got an offensive rebound and put up a last second attempt but it was blocked and the Patriots won the game… or so we thought. As the game clock showed zero, the ref called a questionable shooting foul that gave the Vikings two free throws, and eventually sent the game into overtime. The Patriots fought valiantly until the end, but couldn’t pull out the win and suffered their third loss of the season.
In the second game of the new year, the Patriots played Einstein on Jan. 7 at home and cruised to an easy 70-42 with a huge second half. Every player got in the game and scored, including senior forward Andy Ram and junior guard Thomas Jezek, who got their first minutes of the year.
Finally, the Patriots faced Churchill on Jan. 10. It was a packed house, as almost the whole gym was filled with spectators. They got out to a fast start, opening the game with a 9-0 run and eventually leading at the end of the first 19-9. The Patriots controlled the entire game and led all the way into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs came all the way back from what at one point was a 13-point deficit. Churchill went 31-34 from the free throw line and senior guard Jomo Goings scored 13 in the fourth leading the Bulldogs to a win.
It was a hard fought game by both sides, but in the end the Patriots couldn’t find enough offense, only scoring six in the fourth. “We showed that we can compete with good teams, and hopefully beat teams later in the year when it matters most,” Ram said.
The Patriots have been without freshman Franklin Ayissi-Etoh all season, but his anticipated return looks to be on the horizon. He suffered an MCL sprain in the pre-season, but should be ready for the game on Jan. 13 against Walter Johnson.
Coach Erick Graves has put out three different starting lineup combinations during the regular season. It started with Lvovsky, senior guard Jack Moskowitz, Margaritas, and both Bayigambas. Since the Watkins Mill game, Graves has swapped Moskowitz for Rowe and as a result the Patriots are 4-2. Moskowitz’s play has benefited from the change, as his scoring average has increased and he has provided a needed spark off the bench.
They took on the Walter Johnson Wildcats on Jan. 13, BCC on Jan. 15, and Wheaton on Jan. 17 but all were too late to be covered in this issue.