Following the hard-fought first battle against Churchill, the Patriots looked to bounce back as they tried to gain ground in the divisional race and hopefully overtake the Bulldogs in their second meeting.
First, the Patriots took on the Walter Johnson Wildcats on Jan. 13. Freshman guard Franklin Ayissi-Etoh made his season debut, but only scored three points as most of the scoring came from the starting lineup. Junior guard Will Margaritas scored 25 and the rest of the starting line combined for 15, which lifted the Patriots to a 64-63 win. An incredible pass by senior guard Jack Moskowitz led to a game winning layup from Margaritas.
Next, they played BCC on Jan. 15 at home and junior guard Jayden Rowe came up huge for the team shooting 80 percent from three-point range, one of only three players who scored in double figures. Senior forward Kobe Frimpong nearly had a double double with 10 points and eight rebounds. Frimpong was active on both sides of the ball, leading all bench players with 16 minutes as the Patriots came out on top 69-58.
Playing with confidence, the team traveled to Wheaton and absolutely clobbered the Knights, winning 66-29. Senior forward Andy Ram led the team with 10 rebounds and the bench scored 33 points as the Patriots moved to 8-4 on the season. During the three-game win streak the Patriots out rebounded their opponents 120-85 and shot at least 35 percent from three in every game. That combination provided the squad with a shot at the one seed in the division and set the floor for their second matchup against Churchill on Jan. 21. “We knew it was a big game and we were excited to have another chance to play Churchill in another exciting environment,” Ram said.
However, the Patriots came out flat and weren’t ready to play. They shot 28 percent from the field and scored 13 points in the first half, which is no recipe for success and they couldn’t bounce back in the second half, falling to the Bulldogs 62-44. The Patriots once again couldn’t find an answer for senior guard Jomo Goings as he scored 19 points with five rebounds and five assists. The win for Churchill all but wrapped up the division, which meant that the Patriots would need to earn the second seed to guarantee a home playoff game down the road.
Their next test came against Wheaton for the second time in a week on Jan. 24. The Knights kept it close, unlike the first game and only trailed by five heading into the fourth quarter. The Patriots’ bench played a big role in this one as Wheaton was able to limit Margaritas to zero points, before he left the game with an injury in the first quarter. The bench contributed 20 points and helped secure the must-win game for the team.
Margaritas’ ankle injury held him out of their next match against Kennedy on Jan. 28. That gave Ayissi-Etoh his first career start in a significant game for the Patriots. He jumped into the role and didn’t skip a beat as he scored 15 points and logged 22 minutes in the win.
In yet another major divisional matchup the Patriots took on Richard Montgomery on Jan. 31. Not one player for the team scored over eight points and the team in total had eight points in the first. Senior guard Jack Lvovsky was held scoreless and Margaritas only added five. The Patriots would drop this one 58-42.
Finally, the Patriots cruised to an easy 82-59 win on Feb. 7 against Seneca Valley. Junior forward Normand Bayigamba almost notched a double double with 19 points and nine rebounds and Margaritas scored 20 points and added six assists in the win.
Now the Patriots look forward to games against Damascus on Feb. 11, Northwood on Feb. 14 and Gaithersburg on Feb. 18 all too late to be covered in this issue. With four games left in the season, the Patriots will rely on their three-point shooting, rebounding and upperclassmen to lead them to a deep run in the playoffs. “I feel really good about playoffs, everyone has been showing great intensity and focus in practice,” Bayigamba said.