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JR Boys basketball finds success on national stages

The Tigers tip off against Roosevelt at home on Wednesday.
TIGERS ON-COURT – JR Boys varsity basketball during a game stoppage against Dunbar High School. L to R: Scottie Hubbard, Jayden Fort, Lucas Sekasi and Joe McRae.
(Nate Watson)

Life traveling on the road can be hard, but the Jackson-Reed Boys varsity basketball team have proven otherwise. Over the last few weeks, the Tigers experienced the national spotlight: three different classics, eight total games, and a four day trip to Bristol, Tennessee. Despite finishing runner-up in the Tennessee Arby’s Classic to Kell High School (Ga.), the road competitions have positioned the Tigers with a 16-2 record to open the month of January. 

The team has found stride navigating their way through the thick of their schedule. Since the beginning of the new year, the Tigers have looked to carry their momentum-–headlined from a 61-58 win over nationally ranked 18th, Bullis High School— into the remainder of the month. 

On January 3, senior point guard Lucas Sekasi led the way with 17 points against the Bullis Bulldogs. “Coach Tee has really been harping on me to be more aggressive. [On Wednesday] I kind of tried to take a backseat on trying to set up offense to my teammates,” said Sekasi. Instead of solely prioritizing creating opportunities on the offensive end, Sekasi aimed to be aggressive offensively himself. “I feel like I was a bad teammate and a bad player to coach looking at it in retrospect, not trusting in them earlier in the season. [However], my aggression has been ramping up, which is always good.” 

In a back and forth affair to decide Wednesday’s contest, the game winning basket came in overtime over Bullis with 4.8 seconds remaining. Senior point guard Justin Gilmore’s layup turned into an opportunity at the free throw line, sealed the victory for the Tigers. “I was just trying to play hard and do absolutely anything I had to for us to win, since we lost our last game we just played in Tennessee,” said Gilmore who finished with eight points and three assists, while shooting six of seven at the free throw line. “When we put that Jackson-Reed jersey on, there’s no losing two games in a row. So I kept that in the back of my mind and used it to fuel me down the stretch.” 

The Tigers have charged through their national classics and showcases to a 11-2 record so far. “It shows us how we belong on this level and are worthy of the competition we’re playing, which also is bringing us together off the court and strengthening all of our chemistry on the court,” said Gilmore.  

That national stretch started two weeks ago, when the Tigers traveled to Bowie State University for the Mid-Atlantic Basketball Showcase to play Bowie High School. The Tigers steamrolled the Bowie Bulldogs 61-23, carrying momentum into the Tennessee road trip for the 18-team Arby’s Classic. The Tigers’ roll continued, beating Tennessee High School (TN), South Shore (NY), and Mater Lakes Academy (Fla) in their first three games.

Opening in January, the Tigers won the Behan Strong Invitational at St. John’s College High School over Bullis. “[It’s] just the guys being consistent, that’s a message I’m telling them everyday,” said head coach David “Tee” Johnson. “Regardless of the opponent, It’s the message: “how can we become and be the best version of ourselves.” 

The team believes one essential component that has led to their success is their chemistry. 

“Our ability to stay together as a team, being able to communicate and be like brothers, it’s helped us a lot to get through adversity,” said junior small forward JJ Massaquoi. One player that has embraced the camaraderie is junior point guard Marcel Lane. “Marcel has been a big key, he keeps us engaged. He is the heart of our team, he’s the glue, and energy,” said Massaquoi. 

“When I’m sitting on the bench, I want to win. And the guys on the floor I got to lift them up when they’re down,” added Lane. “I gotta keep the energy up. For games, like [against] Bullis, when times are rough, lifting the team up and lifting the overall team energy up [is the goal]. When they feel better, they play better,” said Lane. 

TIGERS CULTURE – The warm-up gear that the Tigers wear before every game, we over me (WE>ME). Pictured: senior small forward Micah Charles.

That’s the Tigers brand of basketball, “We over Me.” “If you watch any of the games, you see that extra pass being made, you see them talking and communicating,” said assistant coach Aireon Boone. “That is the we over me mentality, that is what keeps us growing as a unit and family. I’m going to do what’s better for us and just not for me.”

“Just being able to watch film, and have film to look at to be able to show them their mistakes,” is what has worked, said coach Tee. “We can correct them the next time they’re on the court, that’s really been helpful for us.” 

The road ahead for the Tigers features three more classics: the Dream Classic on MLK weekend in Bowie Md., a rescheduled HoopBuzz Invitational in Oxon Hill, Md., and the Riverdale Baptist Showcase in Upper Marlboro, Md. 

Blended in between will be nine more DCIAA conference games. At Jackson-Reed they’ll take on Roosevelt, Banneker, HD Woodson, Bell, Ron Brown, and Coolidge. The remaining road conference schedule includes a Bard rematch from last year’s DCIAA city semifinals matchup, Cardozo, and Anacostia. 

Even with being on the road, the breeze that the Tigers have found have pushed them forward. “I’ve always felt like we had a team full of dawgs,” said the senior Sekasi. “[Against Bullis] we dug deep and proved it. This is the expectation for the rest of the season.” Senior point guard Joe McRae added, “when adversity hits, we pull each other through.”

TIGERS PREGAME – The Tigers lined up on court pregame against Gonzaga College High School from Dec. 10. (Nate Watson)
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About the Contributor
Justin Glenn, Assistant Sports Editor
Justin is a sports fanatic.. you’ll most likely see him with a baseball cap of some sort throughout the hallways. If he isn’t writing about high school sports, he’s likely watching a D.C. sports team, NASCAR or some other professional league in his free time. Outside of sports, he enjoys the outdoors and watching Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, besides that, he’s an average out-going person.
  • 2023-24: Assistant Sports Editor
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