After pregame shoves, Eagles pull away for title
NAT. CHRISTIAN 77, R.C. CHRISTIAN 55
Well-acquainted foes locked eyes and threw down before the ball was even live in Saturday night’s Capital Beltway League final. Trash talk between National Christian and Rock Creek Christian escalated into full-extension shoves, which forced the referees to issue a well-earned double technical as the rivals lined up for the opening tip.
The tension spilled over into a chaotic start as every dunk, rebound and crossover was punctuated with brash body language. Amid the full-speed melee, National Christian found a way to harness its energy to own the offensive glass and slice through the press.
With a handful of highlight dunks, the Eagles beat down No. 3 Rock Creek Christian in style for a 77-55 win at Prince George’s Community College.
“We felt no pressure. From the beginning, we already knew what we had to do. We played Rock Creek twice this year, and we lost,” senior forward Terrance Lewis said. “We wanted to come out to play the third time and make a statement.”
No. 3 Rock Creek Christian (28-4) handed National Christian (22-11) a pair of double-digit losses in the regular season. A sloppy start to the third matchup peaked midway through the second quarter, with the game tied at 20, when neither team scored for 21/2 minutes.
Then National Christian ripped off a 10-0 run before taking a 34-23 halftime lead. Rock Creek Christian attempted to climb back into the game with a fullcourt press, but its tried-and-trusted defense was consistently shredded for easy baskets.
“They were getting turnovers in the first games and nothing was going our way,” said junior Malik Kennedy, who led all scorers with 27 points. “We kept calm tonight, and everything came into place.”
Rock Creek Christian, which was led by 19 points from sophomore guard Sherif Kenney, cut the deficit to seven points at the end of the third quarter but did not get any closer in the fourth. Lewis finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds as National Christian muscled its way to a 49-30 advantage on the glass.
After a .500 record in the CBL regular season, National Christian entered the playoffs as the No. 4 seed.
“When it came to the playoffs, we realized it’s one and done — if you lose, you’re out,” Kennedy said. “So we came together as a team and said it’s not going to go down like that.”
Before National Christian emptied its bench in the final minutes, Lewis ended his high school career with one last putback dunk. After an eight-point win over Riverdale Baptist on Friday, the Eagles repeated as league champions with their most dominant performance of the season.
“It feels great. Back-to-back championships,” Lewis said. “Put that down in history. Just amazing.”