RIVERDALE – After a strong start by Rock Creek Christian Academy forward Jermaine Harris, the senior began missing shots and getting into early foul trouble during a high school basketball match against Fairmont Heights High School on Jan. 27.
Only down two at halftime, Rock Creek Christian Head Coach Christian Cole turned to senior Kenyante Williams, who had been out for over five months with a foot injury, to reestablish Rock Creek Christian’s offense. It took a few minutes, but after a couple of plays and shots, Williams was ready to take control.
“I was glad they accepted me back in with no hesitation,” Williams said. “It was all the chemistry built from last year that was carried over to this year, and it feels like I’m part of a family and it is good to be back.”
“People forget about him,” Harris said about Williams. “He’s going to be a huge piece of what we do. For this to be his first game back, I thought (he) and Jon Preston’s toughness jumpstarted what we wanted to do.”
Williams brought composure to the offense, distributing the ball with ease and scored eight critical points when necessary. Together with Preston’s 12 points and Harris bouncing back to score a team-high 18 points, Rock Creek Christian battled back to defeat Fairmont Heights, 76-61, in the final game of the DMV Winter Classic.
Even with a healthy 11-2 run to start, Rock Creek Christian (13-3) appeared sluggish in attack and was unable to make stops defensively. Three weeks without practice impacted the team’s cohesion, Cole said, which led to problems in the opening half.
Fairmont Heights’s game plan, according to head coach Chuck Henry, was to frustrate Harris and it worked as he had two fouls before the end of the first quarter, forcing Rock Creek Christian to sit the senior for the majority of the second quarter.
Meanwhile, the Hornets (12-4) fought back with excellent shooting from seniors Darren Lucas-White and Kimani Benjamin.
Lucas-White often scored, finishing with a game-high 23 points, establishing a rhythm to the Hornets offense. As they began to lose steam towards the end of the third quarter, Benjamin hit back-to-back three-pointers, giving the Hornets temporary relief. Benjamin finished with 17 points.
However, the two McDonald’s All-American Games nominees could not withstand Rock Creek Christian’s resurgence at the end of the third quarter continuing through the fourth quarter. Rock Creek exploded to a 19-2 run. While attempting to take the lead for good, Rock Creek Christian’s defense silenced the Hornets for the final two minutes of the third quarter.
“I’m encouraged by what I saw defensively out of our team,” Henry said. “Obviously, you want to walk away with a victory like this. However, it was not to be today.”
Williams continued to find open players as Rock Creek Christian had seven different shooters contribute to the victory. Meanwhile, after a halftime conversation that included “a lot of yelling” to “push the right buttons” according to Cole, Harris bounced back to score eight fourth-quarter points. The Rhode Island commit dazzled the crowd late with a wide-open dunk before being subbed out for the rest of the game.
“I had to sit for a little bit, but I came through in the second half,” Harris said. “I wasn’t frustrated but (Cole) kept telling me to keep playing my game and I just kept playing.”
Earlier in the day, Frederick Douglass (11-5) defeated Annapolis 74-63 for their fifth straight victory. Forward Eric Isler led all scorers with 16 points while senior Jabraun Shingler and junior Kaylen Vines both scored in double-figures.
In the first game of the DMV Winter Classic, Parkdale (2-11) could not take advantage of home court as junior guard Savion Gallion scored 31 points to lead Thurgood Marshall from Washington, D.C. to a 75-31 win.