Thursday, January 10, 2008

West Potomac Hoops

Footballers Lift W. Potomac Hoops Squad
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, January 10, 2008; VA14

Jimmy Bennett, a 6-foot-9, 285-pound All-Met offensive lineman on West Potomac's football team, was one of six football players who missed "the most important week of
basketball practice," Bennett said.

The Connecticut-bound lineman helped the Wolverines football team to its first postseason since 2000 and subsequently missed the first week of basketball tryouts.

"That first week gets you in shape, and the football players missed that, and it took us until the Christmas break to get back in [basketball] shape," said Bennett, a third-year varsity player who has used that week-long sprint -- loaded with early-morning conditioning and afternoon practices -- to help him make the transition.

As Bennett and the core of football players developed what Coach David Houston called their "basketball legs," the Wolverines (7-2) had won six of seven before Tuesday's home game against West Springfield.

West Potomac defeated Mount Vernon, 70-68, in the semifinals of its run to the Mount Vernon Holiday Tournament championship, and last Friday's 52-48 victory at Lake Braddock was the team's fourth straight.

Friday's win marked the first time that West Potomac beat Lake Braddock in 10 meetings since January 2003.

"Our goal wasn't to beat Lake Braddock," said Houston, who took over the program four years ago after the team finished 2-20 and has since posted a 34-43 record. "Our goal was to win the district title."

The recent success is a sign that the gridiron stars have not only adjusted but are now providing toughness for the Wolverines, who are on pace for the program's first winning season since it went 25-1 and won the Northern Region tournament in 1998.

"I guess you could say that the football players give the team a level of toughness that wouldn't be there," said Bennett, who is averaging just under 10 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.

"He is the only pure center that I've seen [in the Northern Region] so far," Houston said of Bennett. "When he's on the floor, everybody on the defense has to account for him. They have to put two guys to account for him, so it leaves other guys open."

'Battle at the Garden'

Third-ranked Montrose Christian will play at No. 14 T.C. Williams on Saturday at 8 p.m. in a matchup that pits two of the area's top powers in a public-private school battle.

Tickets to the game, tabbed "the Battle at the Garden," will cost $8. The event will also feature a meeting of the programs' junior varsity squads at 6 p.m.

"I think these games should happen more," said T.C. Williams Coach Ivan Thomas, who thinks this is the first meeting between the teams. "It's very seldom that you get some of the top teams to play each other. I think it's good for the kids and just high school basketball in general. We will play this game every year as long as I'm here."

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