Wednesday, December 17, 2008

South Lakes Shows That It's Still Strong

South Lakes Shows That It's Still Strong
By B.J. Koubaroulis

Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, December 17, 2008; E06

Caught in the doorway between the locker room and his office, South Lakes Coach Darryl Branch placed his open palm on senior guard Travis Williams's chest -- a near stiff-arm that jolted the 5-foot-10 senior guard.

"Act civilized," Branch told Williams and a rowdy stampede of his teammates last night as they charged a box of hot dogs -- their postgame reward for a 50-39 victory over visiting Virginia AAA Liberty District foe Madison.

Williams, who scored a team-high 19 points on a variety of pull-up jumpers, three-pointers and slashing drives to the basket, was perfectly composed going into last night's district opener. He and his teammates showed focus, and once again South Lakes (3-1, 1-0) appears to be a force in the Northern Region.

"Every team is special, but this team is special to me," said Branch, who has spent 15 years at his alma mater, most recently replacing his former coach and mentor Wendell Byrd two seasons ago.

Although Williams is the Seahawks' only returning starter, almost every other Seahawk was on Branch's junior varsity team two years ago -- a 15-1 squad that he believes might have the same success at the varsity level.

"It's a gradual progression," Branch said. "Why not?"

While Williams entered last night as the district's leading scorer, averaging 21.3 points per game, players such as 6-foot-5 senior forward Jamal Hulum and speedy senior three-point threat Steve Kerr were less heralded. Senior forward Brandon Price might have best been known because of his brother A.J. Price -- a football, basketball and track star who is a wide receiver at Penn State.

However, Price, Hulum and Kerr combined for 12 points and drew pressure away from Williams, who scored four, during a 16-4 third-quarter run that helped South Lakes recover from a 21-19 halftime deficit.

Madison fell to 3-3, 0-1.

"A lot of people don't know these guys," said Williams, who scored 34 points in a season-opening 73-46 victory over Heritage. "Don't look for them to come soft. We are the underdogs this year, and we are going to prove to everybody that we are in the top of the district this year."

Price scored seven last night but had 15 in a 73-68 victory over rival Herndon last week and is a "real matchup problem," Branch said.

Hulum, who had nine points, six rebounds and four blocks, prefers to "fly under the radar," he said. "I like surprising people."

South Lakes 50 Madison 39 Will Power: Madison's Will Clarkson, a quarterback who threw for more than 700 yards and led the Warhawks to the Division 5 football playoffs this fall, had 16 points last night and is averaging a team-high 17.6 points per game. Ogolo Mending: In his second game back after recovering from surgery this fall, Madison guard Omi Ogolo scored six points.

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