It was a long road to the postseason, but now the George Washington High School basketball team is exactly where they want to be.
The Eagles endured a heap of highs and lows this season, struggling through a 5-8 record in regular season play — good enough for a berth in the playoffs.
From there, things just got better and better.
Washington ousted Abraham Lincoln, 49-42, in the preliminary round of the Public League Class AAAA playoffs on Feb. 7, advancing the Eagles to the next round two days later. On Thursday, Washington battled longtime rival Frankford High School in an intense, and very personal, contest.
Last year, Frankford ended George Washington’s hopes of championship contention, defeating them in the second round of the playoffs. This year’s bout had a different ending.
The Eagles gained an early lead, thanks to junior guard Kendale Truitt, who netted all of the Eagles points in the first quarter (ten points total, including two treys). In fact, Truitt was the only Eagle to score throughout the first ten and a half minutes of game action.
“We were all real nervous, and I think that definitely played a big part in the first quarter,” said Truitt, who scored a team high 22 points against Frankford last week. “You don’t want to lose. I mean, it’s the second round of the playoffs. Everybody is here. They beat us last year.”
Both Frankford and Washington battled to gain momentum early in the game, and they did it in style. The magnitude of their rivalry was evident in every pass, every shot, every play.
The packed gymnasium at Frankford High School vibrated with screaming fans from both schools. Crowds of students and teachers jumped out of their seats, waved banners and rally towels. Some even moon walked across the bleachers.
ldquo;We were confident coming out the gate, but this was a really different game because we’re at their gym. It’s playoffs. There’s more intensity,” said Washington junior guard Nafece Edwards, who netted nine points in last week’s postseason contest. “We just had to do everything harder. We had to play harder. We had to run harder. We can’t get any fouls and have to make smart plays. We just had to go harder.”
Despite Frankford briefly regaining the lead in the final two minutes of game action — courtesy of junior guard Tyree Tucker’s lay-up — Washington was able to tie things up once again after junior center William Davis successfully sunk two foul shots.
With 16 seconds on the clock and Frankford in possession, Washington’s Truitt stole the ball, sprinted up court and dropped in a lay-up, providing Washington with a two-point lead once again. The Eagles’ solid defense ran the clock down to the buzzer.
Final score: George Washington, 45; Frankford, 43.
“That was crazy! It felt real good,” said Truitt of his game-winning shot. “We were underrated. I knew we had to step up.”
For Frankford — who finished 20-6 in the Public League B Division, en route to a Class AAAA city championship title last year — the loss ends their season with a 3-8 record in the Public League A Division and 8-13 overall.
Frankford’s Tucker led his team in scoring with 12 points against Washington. Senior center Shaquil Rone contributed ten. The Pioneers’ heavy hitter, Imire Taylor — a senior who has averaged 19.7 points this season — did not play in Thursday’s game due to an injury.
ldquo;His wrist has been hurting him all week long. He wanted to play, but I just did not want him to play,” explained Frankford coach Dave Huzzard. “It was obviously a difficult loss. It was a tough way to go.”
Both squads were plagued by missed foul shot attempts. Frankford came up empty on 13 shots, while Washington missed ten.
On Washington’s side, the triumph extends their season at least for one more game. They are slated to face Samuel Fels High School on Tuesday. That game was played after the Times went to press this week.
After defeating Frankford last week, the Eagles stand at 5-8 in the Public League B Division and 10-12 overall.
“It was a tough season. We were just losing. But we knew in the postseason we had to get it together,” said Edwards, who averaged more than 12 points per game for the Eagles this winter. “Now we want that third one (win). We go against Fels on Tuesday. We have to pass the ball more and get everyone involved. We have to play together to get that win for our coach.” ••EndFragment