Life is good again for Riverdale Baptist coach Lou Wilson. After going six games without his top two scorers, Nigel Johnson and Khary Doby, and another starter, Carlton Carter, due to academic issues, Wilson has his stars again, and the Crusaders have their swagger.
“That changes a lot, especially the offense,” Johnson said after the Crusaders beat Miller School of Abermarle 71-64 Saturday in the Presidential Hoopfest at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville. “I mean, when we were out, the defense was still pretty good but we struggled getting points on the board because we lost our two main scorers so when we came in I think I just made everything flow a little bit easier for us.”
Not that life was ever all that difficult for Wilson. Any griping with the lineup he oversees, even without the pair of Division-I recruits active, would sort of be like complaining about being stuck on a crippled cruise ship: it’s still a cruise ship. And Wilson still had 6-foot-7 athletic swingman and DePaul recruit Ronald Whitaker and 6-foot-10 rebounding machine Chinanu Onuaku, a junior holding offers from Virginia Tech, Connecticut, Seton Hall, and Xavier among a host of others.
“We still had a lot of firepower,” Wilson said. “With our big scoring guy with Ronald Whitaker being athletic and scoring and getting to the basket and Chinanu Onuaku, the best defensive rebounder in the area … he’s a stat sheet stuffer. We have a lot of firepower even without those three.”
But what a difference a senior shooting guard with no apparent limit to his range and a 6-foot-6 forward can make. Johnson finished the day with 30 points on four 3-pointers — what he calls his second-best game of the year, behind a 39-point performance against National Christian — while Doby was the only other Crusader in double-digits with 12.
“It felt good, getting back with the team,” said Doby, a North Carolina A&T recruit. “They was doing good without me but it’s good to get back, get our chemistry together.”
Johnson admitted he was slightly out of shape in his return from the suspension two games ago. Neither him nor Doby were allowed to practice for the first week of the suspension and couldn’t play in a game for another week after that. On Saturday, however, neither showed much sign of fatigue, consistently strong on both ends throughout.
“I was a little out of shape but I just kept working and that last game, National Christian, and I practiced the rest of the week and then Princeton Day I felt like I got my legs back,” Johnson said. “Now I just play normal.”
Wilson will have his scorers during next week’s inaugural Capital Beltway Athletic Association playoffs, which Riverdale is currently in a three-way tie for the top seed with National Christian and Princeton Day. And he’ll need them. Even with the duo, Riverdale lost to the Storm on Friday and split a series with National Christian.
“We had lost two in a row to teams that we already beat,” Johnson said. “So I think winning this game made it feel like we’re getting back on track.”
Riverdale Baptist 71, Miller 64
Riverdale 18 19 21 13—71
Miller 17 12 24 11—64
Riverdale Baptist (22-10; 8-2): Nigel Johnson 30; Khary Doby 12; Ronald Whitaker 9; Raeece Hunt 5; Chinanu Onuaku 4; Marquis Powell 4; Carlton Carter 3; Devin Steele 2; Robert Tyler 2.
Miller (16-13): Isaac Copeland 22; Tony Washington 13; Aram Martin 10; Cameron Smith 8; Travis Hester 7; Grayson Gunner 2; Grant Harris 2.