It could have been a legendary comeback, a resurgent St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes team coming from behind to sneak past a top-five Episcopal squad in a backyard battle for bragging rights.
It wasn’t to be. And at the end of the evening, it wasn’t even that close.
Despite giving the Maroon a run for their money in the second quarter coming within 10 points after a double-digit deficit in the first the 8-8 Saints couldn’t keep their momentum going Tuesday night. They dropped their fourth game in a row against the Maroon, 77-50.
In the second quarter we fell prey to a little fatigue, said Episcopal head coach Jim Fitzpatrick. We made some poor decisions on offense and they are a very dangerous team.
At halftime Fitzpatrick challenged his team to hold it together, get back to their game plan and their style of play: relying on the defense and their opponents mistakes.
The Maroon rose to the occasion.
It was looking a bit down, said junior guard Kethan Savage. We had to push through our fatigue and just worry about getting back on defense.
Savage and teammate Sadiq Abubaker played pivotal roles in keeping the Saints out of reach, no matter how hard they tried to stifle the Maroon. In a second quarter with few bright spots for Episcopal, Savage lit up the court with defensive steals, breakaways and baskets.
Despite missing injured playmaker Arnaud Adala-Moto, Savage and Abubaker made up the difference on Episcopal’s home court. After a heartbreaking 56-53 loss to Bullis in overtime and falling from second to fourth in the Washington Post’s weekly power poll last weekend, the team was ready to return to their winning ways, Abubaker said.
After coming from a tough loss at home, I needed to do more and play harder, he said. We knew it wasn’t going to be straight up wins the whole season. We’re just glad it had to happen at this point so we play harder and give our best a collective effort.
He knows the Saints came close, albeit for a short while, to closing the gap. They became more aggressive, matching the Maroon in intensity, he said.
We got fatigued a little bit and started playing sloppy, he said. Coach told us what we needed to hear.
The weekend loss to Bullis and the win over St. Stephen’s puts the Maroon at 4-1 in their conference and 13-2 overall. Still, the Maroon remain atop the Interstate Athletic Conference with a 13-3 Landon nipping at their heels. They meet up for a possible revenge match January 28.
Until then, the Maroon can savor a win over their cross-town rivals. Fitzpatrick knows he enjoys the catch-as-catch-can competition between the two Alexandria private schools as much as his players.
They love the challenge, he said. They know each other fairly well and they want to compete. I think it’s a healthy rivalry game as there is in this area. Both teams are trying to fight for an IAC championship. They’ll be ready next time.
The next time they meet, February 11, it will be on the St. Stephen’s court, facing a Saints team that, like the Maroon this go around, has something to prove.