Last season, in his first as George Washington’s boys basketball coach, John Creighton got the Eagles to the playoffs before suffering a first-round exit. This year, he got them back there again, only this time, G.W. knocked off Olney on the road in the first round, advancing to play the imposing Lancers of Central in Tuesday’s Class AAAA semifinals.
Could Creighton get a team full of guys with little to no varsity experience into the final against Martin Luther King, one of the top Public League teams in the city?
The answer was an oh-so-close-but-no-cigar no, with Central pulling away late at the free throw line in a wire-to-wire game that was much closer than its 68-55 final score indicated. Although the Eagles lost, progress for Creighton’s Division B program has been immense since he took over.
“It was just a great environment,” Creighton said of the Tuesday afternoon contest at Central. “It was a packed house with cheerleaders and the band, college scouts, fans from both schools … just a great high school playoff game atmosphere. It was close throughout, but we missed so many open shots early on that could have stretched the game. Then late in the game we had some unfortunate unforced turnovers that they were able to convert on.”
The Eagles played without junior Charles Brown, who scored a team-high 24 points in the first-round triumph over Olney. Creighton didn’t elaborate on Brown’s absence beyond saying “It was an unfortunate situation not related to injury, and hopefully it’s something he can overcome and learn from. I was still confident in the rest of my team that we could beat them.”
Brown’s length certainly could have helped against the frontcourt heavy Lancers, led by senior center Chris Bing, who notched 17 points and 14 rebounds. Bing was one of four Central players in double figures; meanwhile, the Eagles were led by senior James Cottrell and junior Jerome Blume, who scored 13 apiece.
“We were well-prepared,” Creighton said. “We kept the score close and knew it would come down to the last few minutes. Central played a really disciplined game to beat us. They didn’t make any poor decisions, they were scrappy and hustled to offensive rebounds.”
Washington finished with a record of 15-7, including nine wins in Division B (Creighton has won nine division games in each of his first 2 seasons), while Central improved to 22-2 overall. Creighton hopes that he can keep his young nucleus together for 2014-15, which is easier said than done these days in the Public League, where players sometimes jump to different programs like they were lilypads.
“I hope this group sticks together,” said Creighton, who will next turn his attention to the boys lacrosse program, which he also coaches. “You try to create a program, and it’s hard in such a cutthroat league where people move on to other places. That’s out of my control.
“One thing I can say is they got their chance to perform together as a young nucleus. With not a lot of varsity experience, they grew together and took the next step. If they stick together and keep working hard, the sky’s the limit. It’s nice to see that, in theory, we have someone coming back at pretty much every position. We had some peaks and valleys, but by the final six to eight games I thought we were really all on the same page. We’ll let these emotions die down, then we’ll meet next week and start planning for the future.” ••