Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Nighthawks open season with pair of weekend losses

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Naomi Brookner⁄The Gazette
Nighthawks forward Omar Weaver (top) and Wilmington Sea Dawg Charles Ward fight for a rebound during the Nighthawks' season-opener Saturday night at the Hanley Center at Georgetown Prep. Weaver scored 15 points, but the Nighthawks lost, 92-88.
After months of anticipation and planning, the Maryland Nighthawks were all set to tip off their first season in the newly formed Premier Basketball League, when they received a bit of bad news earlier in the week. In the football-mad D.C. Metropolitan area, the Nighthawks’ home opener, on Saturday at the Hanley Center for Athletic Excellence on the campus of Georgetown Prep in Bethesda came opposite the Washington Redksins’ first playoff game in two years.

‘‘I was a little nervous,” Nighthawks owner and PBL chief executive officer Tom Doyle said. ‘‘But, I knew that we has some good Internet presales, so we would have a crowd. We were almost at full capacity [with an attendance of 1,200], which was great. Really, I could not have been more pleased.”

While some of people, who watched the Redskins lose their playoff game to Seattle, came in after the 7 p.m. tipoff against the Wilmington Sea Dawgs, many arrived before the start of the contest. That included Thailand’s ambassador to the United States, Krit Kanchanakunchon, who was in attendance to see the Nighthawks’ newest addition, guard Ratchdech Kruatiwa, also known as ‘‘J.O.” According to the Nighthawks, J.O. is the first Thai national to play professional basketball in the United States.

‘‘It was very special,” Doyle said. ‘‘The arena looked great, there was a lot of buzz in the crowd. I got a lot of comments throughout the night about how great everything looked.”

Unfortunately for the Nighthawks, the good feelings that flowed at the start of the night did not last until the end. Despite holding a six-point lead into the fourth quarter, Maryland suffered a collapse, watched Wilmington go on a 27-16 run to end the game, and dropped its opener, 92-88.

‘‘It was a good game,” Nighthawks forward David Bailey, who played at Prince George’s Community College, said. ‘‘I’m looking forward for this season. It’s a good team and once we get the chemistry working out, I don’t feel like anyone will be able to compete with us.”

The chemistry that Bailey, who finished the game with 14 points and 15 rebounds, spoke of will take some time to build. Many new faces dot the Nighthawks’ roster this season, including Tamir Goodman, the former schoolboy legend who was dubbed the ‘‘Jewish Jordan” after his exploits at the Talmudical Academy in Baltimore. After a stint at Towson University, Goodman had spent the last five years playing professionally in Israel, before returning to play for the Nighthawks this season. Goodman spent Saturday night adjusting to his role as a point guard, playing more than 12 minutes, but he did not attempt a shot. J.O. also was held scoreless, going 0 for 2 from the field in 8 minutes, 22 seconds of playing time. If those two additions can come around, the Nighthawks may soon find some wins.

‘‘It was tough,” Doyle said. ‘‘We just gave the game away at the end with turnovers and stupid mistakes. Hopefully, we can turn that around.”

In addition, the Nighthawks opened the season without Randy ‘‘White Chocolate” Gill on the roster. Gill has played with the team in each of the last three seasons, and is currently practicing with the team, and may return later in the season. Yet, some bright spots also emerged in the loss. Antric Klaiber, who played college basketball at the University of Connecticut, led the Nighthawks with 17 points, and Omar Weaver added 15.

‘‘Of course you always want to win,” Nighthawks coach and former Syracuse University star Lawrence Moten said. ‘‘Sometimes you have to take your bumps and bruises before you learn how.”

Notes: The Nighthawks traveled to Reading on Sunday to take on the Railers, another East Division foe. Maryland came out on the losing end again, 145-121, to fall to 0-2 on the season.