As T. C. Williams found out the hard way, there are not many big guys in the Metro area or the country, for that matter quite like Montrose Christians Mouphtaou Yarou.
The Montose seniors presence inside, along with some hot perimeter shooting and a noticeable height advantage helped bring the Mustangs to a 15-2 lead after four minutes to play in the first quarter, a lead they never relinquished as they cruised to victory over the Titans, 70-53.
While on paper it was a showdown between two teams ranked in the Washington Posts Top 10, the Mustangs pedigree the school is known for producing NBA stars like Kevin Durant and powerhouse status were clear from the get-go.
As defending Virginia 3A state champs, the Titans are no strangers to success. But a sense of awe comes with playing a team ranked in the Top 10 nationally by USAToday (#6 following the win against T.C.) and #1 in the Posts Metro poll, which may have factored into their lethargic start, according to Coach Julian King.
The first quarter, some guys were a little nervous, some guys were a little awestruck, some guys were a little anxious, King said. The remaining three quarters were great.
And when it came to guarding Yarou, who racked up 23 points, eight rebounds and four blocks on the night, with the Titans limited size, there was only so much that could be done.
We did the same thing wed do against any big guy, King said. As you can see from our team this year, weve got a bunch of little guys, and [Yarou] is a man among boys.
For King and the Titans, the loss was tough but could prove to be a useful tool in forging another successful postseason run.
[The game] can only help. It puts guys in a place where they realize were not as good as we think we are. We use [Montrose Christian] as a barometer to realize how good we can be, King said.
T.C. Williams sluggish first quarter, which ended with them on the wrong end of a 25-8 deficit that later proved to be the losing margin, holds to a trend of slow starts throughout the year, according to King.
Weve been getting off to a slow start every game this year, which is due in part to a lack of focus as well as a newness to the environment, King said. If you look at our roster from top to bottom, with the exception of Edward Jenkins and Ryan Yates, no one else has much experience in a starting role; we were senior-dominated last year.
Jenkins and Yates certainly led T.C. against the Mustangs, scoring 15 and 13, respectively.
The game against Montrose came on the heels of a 59-49 win against West Springfield the night before. Jenkins led all T.C. scorers that night with 20 points in the district contest.
And, according to King, games in the Patriot District are as fierce as ever, considering the Titans local success, going 52-0 in the Patriot District over the three years before King took over (3-0 this season), and successful state championship run last year. If anything, the target on the Titans collective back has gotten even bigger.
In our district we get everyones best game, King said. Every night is a dogfight for us. Beating T.C. is a big night for anybody.
The Titans are looking forward to big games in the next two weeks against Lake Braddock (Jan. 16) and Hayfield (Jan. 21). In trying to rekindle last seasons success, for King, the objective is clear.
We have our eyes on going back to States, but first things are first, which means weve got to win the District, King said. Along with preaching to my guys, Lets take care of this first, weve got to get through the District and then the Region, and then we can start thinking about States.