Early in the basketball season, the Eagles Varsity team was full of question marks. WCA had lost four starters to graduation, three of which went on to play collegiately. The team’s lone remaining starter was returning, but they also lost one of their best ball-handlers off the bench to transfer. Could the team’s younger core of rising JV players take the reins and challenge in the Metro conference?
Early returns were doubtful, as the team started the season with just one win in its first 12 games. The product of an ambitious schedule of higher level conference opponents was a handful of losses by a wide margin, and there was significant doubt as to whether the team was going to make an impact on the Metro Conference stage. A sluggish start of losses in four of their first five Metro Conference contests further reinforced these concerns. And injuries to both Center Jalen Vaughan and swingman Ethan Conrad didn’t help and had Coach Kenya Williams digging deep into his bench in that span.
As the initial losses marched toward their second win, however, there were sparks of improvement. WCA won decisively against Millwood and Stonebridge to snap a seven-game losing streak. The team lost their next three games, but the margins of defeat were shrinking…first by just nine to Hampton Christian, then 5 to Conference leader Portsmouth Christian, and by only one to perennial foe Atlantic Shores. The single point defeat to the Seahawks seemed to signal that the tides were turning. And indeed they were. The Eagles have not lost a game since.
The current six-game winning streak was punctuated loudly on Tuesday night, as the Eagles put forth their most robust effort of the season, defeating the Portsmouth Christian School Patriots on their court 75-73. It would take overtime to get there, and a tremendous 36 point night for captain and Metro leading scorer Dexter Radcliffe in addition to 17 rebounds. But the corner three-pointer by Connor Simmons, who had been just 1 of 6 from behind the arc until that point, threw the Eagles bench and crowd on hand into near hysteria, as they completed a feat that seemed almost impossible just a few months before.
The winning streak started with substantial (though not unexpected) wins over Metro opponents Denbigh Baptist, Broadwater, and Stonebridge School. The Eagles then welcomed the return of big man Jalen Vaughan and registered the first of three wins that avenged earlier losses against Isle of Wight, with a down to the wire 59-58 victory. A comfortable win over Hampton Christian came on the heels of that win, reversing a 9 point loss at home to a 22 point win on the road. And the piece de resistance came Tuesday finally with the ending of PCS’s bid for a perfect Metro season.
There have been many contributors in the six-game win streak, including Carson Petroszynski with 13 points in the Denbigh Baptist win, Simmons with a 13 point and 8 rebound effort against Broadwater, and 14 points in the following win over Broadwater, and Ethan Conrad with 20 in the win over HCA.
The team lost its winning streak when they travelled to Atlantic Shores, historically one of the toughest home courts to play in the Metro. The Eagles led for much of the game, before the game was marred by an altercation that resulted in captain Dexter Radcliffe being ejected from the game, as well as one of Atlantic Shores better players. The Eagles could not recover from the loss of the Metro scoring leader and lost 73-64. The team would also lose its follwoijng game against Division 1 powerhouse Bishop Sullivan, before registering a win this past Tuesday versus Denbigh Baptist.
Although the team is mathematically unable to win the Metro regular season crown, a run in the Metro tournament and potential title in that event is entirely possible on the heels of the strong season finish. The Eagles will face their final regular season test in their quest towards that goal tonight against Broadwater, which will also be Senior Night, our three seniors (Radcliffe, Kivinie Johnson and Peter Rodenburg) final home game. A win could get them a third seed in the upcoming tourney.