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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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Varsity boys’ basketball breaks ESPN’s Top 25

Tigers advanced to DCIAA Semifinals at home against Dunbar on Thursday.
EASY+LAY+-+Senior+Lucas+Sekasi+goes+for+a+layup+in+the+Den.+The+team+has+had+a+roaring+season%2C+acquiring+the+title+of+%2321+in+the+nation.
Eli Schwartz
EASY LAY – Senior Lucas Sekasi goes for a layup in the Den. The team has had a roaring season, acquiring the title of #21 in the nation.

The boys’ varsity basketball team has been on a train of momentum that hasn’t stopped. The Tigers were ranked No. 22 nationally in ESPN’s Top 25 last week. Through February 9, the team boasted a regular-season record of 29-2. And all season long they have dominated competition regionally and nationally. 

However, even with the attention and spotlight, the Tigers continue to look at the bigger picture: winning DC states. 

“We as a team are very proud of being ranked top-25 and we feel like we deserve it,” said senior power forward Kai Settles. “But even though we’re ranked, the job isn’t done yet. As much as it is an accomplishment, our goal is to win [the DCSAA] states.” 

This year, the Tigers have responded to a disappointing end to their 2022-23 season with a historic and program-defining regular season. Since suffering losses to Bard in the city playoffs and Sidwell Friends in the state finals last year, “we’re using the tough end to last year as motivation. Not winning both our conference and also states were really disappointing for us,” Settles said. 

The team believes the experience gained this winter will translate into postseason success. “We have grown together,” said senior point guard Lucas Sekasi. “[We] started playing for each other, and [not just for ourselves].”

The Tigers have accomplished this with playing in eight different classics across 31 games in two and half months. Along the journey, the team has won on big stages—beating ESPN-ranked #18 Bullis (MD), #17 Wasatch Academy (UT), and regional and DMV private schools Archbishop Ryan (PA), Bishop McNamara (MD), and Clinton Grace Brethren (MD). 

SENIOR NIGHT LIGHTS – Senior small forward #21 Micah Charles shooting a midrange jump shot against Coolidge High School on Feb 2. (Eli Schwartz)

“We’re staying humble and keeping the humility like Coach Tee always says,” junior small forward JJ Massaquoi said referring to head coach David “Tee” Johnson.

The Tigers are one of only four public-school programs ranked in ESPN’s Top 25, and the lone public program from the DC area. “Coaching has been great which is why we’ve been winning. We’re just listening and following [the coaching staffs’] plan, staying true to the grind, and trusting the process,” Massaquoi said. 

The team has gone undefeated in conference play through February 9 and have beaten DCIAA top teams. On senior night, the Tigers crushed Coolidge, 70-50 and on Jan. 29 they rolled Cardozo, 76-59. In a rematch from last year’s playoffs, they also swept Bard, 66-18.

Heading into the city and state playoffs this month, the Tigers were seeded first in the DCSAA Class AA standings. However, with the days counting down to the postseason, the Tigers are approaching tournament play differently. Looking to avoid any upset losses, the team has focused on trusting each other more. 

“We communicate as a team, we’re all on one page,” said senior point guard Joe McRae. “We share the ball and we know what everyone is capable of doing and we understand what Coach Tee [emphasizes with] the little details he says for us, to be as good as we need to be.” 

That translated into being ranked nationally for the first time in school history. “For us being ranked is great, but our confidence comes from being the hardest working team in DC,” Settles said. “This is why we believe we can go as far as we take ourselves. It will be tough but as a team there’s belief that we can have a successful end of the year.” 

Coach Tee’s message to his players stays the same, particularly after a narrow, 57-55 win over Alexandria City, in late January. “The game that we played against [Alexandria City] was a good wake up call,” said coach Tee. “We have to keep the humility, with everything that we’re doing, and not take anything for granted.” 

TIGER HOOPS – Junior small forward #11 JJ Massaquoi on-court against Coolidge High School on Feb. 2. (Eli Schwartz)

“It’s been a pretty successful season. Tournament play is what matters most,” he continued. “We have to be hungry when tournament play starts. A different level of passion, energy, and hunger. We want to see the guys turn it up a notch. We haven’t played our best basketball yet, and seeing us turn that corner and being the best team possible [is the expectation].”

The Tigers have won the DCIAA championship four times in the last six seasons, including three years in a row from 2016-19, and most recently in the 2021-22 season. The Tigers were last DCSAA champions in 2017-18. 

“We have to work twice as hard, starting on the defensive end and continue to be selfless towards each other and keep the game simple as possible, by controlling the tempo,” said assistant coach Elvin Jackson. Junior small forward Jayden Fort added, “we’re going to try and keep the same energy we brought into the regular season into the postseason.”

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About the Contributors
Justin Glenn
Justin Glenn, 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
Eli Schwartz, Assistant Director of Art and Design
  • 2022-23: Senior Photo Editor
  • 2023-24: Assistant Director of Art and Design
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