Roosevelt's KeMari Pointer (0) scored a team-high 16 points in a loss to Jackson-Reed. (Courtesy of Dr. Maurice Butler)
Roosevelt's KeMari Pointer (0) scored a team-high 16 points in a loss to Jackson-Reed. (Courtesy of Dr. Maurice Butler)

It was Washington, D.C., high school basketball at its finest.  The two top teams in the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA) in a showdown to see who had the upper hand.

Students, parents and fans pack the stands at Roosevelt Senior High School in northwest D.C. to watch the Roosevelt play Jackson-Reed. (Courtesy of Dr. Maurice Butler)

Both came in undefeated in league play at 8-0.  And there was a packed house that had not only the fans from both schools, but many who follow D.C. basketball.

In the end, Jackson-Reed held off Theodore Roosevelt, 75-70 on Monday, Jan. 23, at The Milkhouse on the school campus.

One could feel the anticipation when entering the gym where many came early to ensure that they have a seat.

The pace started out fast and furious as the game went back and forth, The Tigers (21-6, 9-0 in the DCIAA) got the upper hand, 18-12 at the end of the first quarter, due to the play of their outstanding sophomore Jayden Fort, who led the way with seven of his team’s points.

Jackson-Reed, which has won the last two titles, threatened to extend its lead to double digits on four different occasions as Fort continued to display an array of basketball skills. But the scrappy Rough Riders (19-2, 8-1 in the DCIAA) refused to wilt as their senior guard Destontoy Cook and sophomore guard Ke’Mari Pointer combined to keep it close at 41-34 at intermission.

Jackson Reed then outscored Theodore Roosevelt, 25-16 in the third quarter to open what appeared to be a comfortable advantage at 66-50.

But the Rough Riders refused to wilt away.  Led by Cook and Pointer, they went on a 13-1 run during a six-minute stretch to cut the deficit to 67-63 with a minute left on clock. Some of the fans who felt that the game was over, rushed back in to catch the exciting finish.

That is when the seasoned Tigers, who have played a number of national teams, including no. 1 ranked, John Marshall of Richmond, Virginia, regained its poise and converted on 8 of their last 10 to pull out the hard-fought win.

“Our guard hurt us during that (fourth quarter) stretch when they got back into the game,” lamented Jackson-Reed head coach David “Little Tee” Johnson.  “Our Achilles Heel all season has been the inability to close games.  It is yet another lesson for us as we grow.”

Rough Riders Head Coach Rob Nickens, the winningest coach in school history, had this to offer.  “I am not one of those people into moral victories.  But I can say that I am especially proud of the effort by this team.  They refused to go away.  That is the tradition here at Roosevelt.  We will always play hard to the end, win or lose.  This is surely something we can build on.”

Coming into the game, there was a lot of attention to Jackson-Reed’s junior guard Robert Dockery, one of the top players in the DMV.  The 6’7″ talented junior got into early foul trouble and finished with only nine points before fouling out.

To that end, Fort, a 6’8″ sophomore, picked up the slack and displayed some scary talent for the future. In scoring a career-high 27 points, Fort was virtually unstoppable with his ability to handle the ball, dominate in the paint, using his length and an uncanny EuroStep move, and even a three-pointer to his arsenal.

“We don’t have anyone who can match up with him,” admitted Nickens, whose tallest player is 6 ‘4.  “Coming in, we knew we had to stop Dockery and him.  Part of that worked, but we did not envision him having this kind of game.”

Added Johnson, “I think the schedule we have played has helped him in his growth as you saw tonight.  He has learned how to play against quality competition and be productive.  That is what we saw tonight.  We just want him to continue to improve.”

Jackson-Reed junior guard Joseph Mcrae added 10 points, including six for six from the free throw line down the stretch, while Theodore Roosevelt got a team-high 16 from Pointer and 10 from Brazil Hutchinson.

This is round one, and while the Tigers get the upper hand, the two could possibly meet in late February for the championship, which they have both dominated over the past decade.  Stay tuned.

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