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St. Charles returns to form following loss of resource officer

Waldorf, MD – Charles County has historically been a competitive basketball county and this year is no exception. Four of the top five teams in SMAC are Charles County schools (Lackey, Westlake, St. Charles and Thomas Stone). St. Charles was the top team at one point, dominating opponents and winning 11 straight games. The Spartans were even ranked as high as 16 in the Washington Post’s top 20 DC Metro Area basketball teams, but just as individual basketball games consist of ups and downs so does life and the season as a whole.

From Jan. 28 through Feb. 4 St. Charles lost three straight in-county games, first to Stone 55-53, then to Lackey 61-59, and lastly to Westlake 63-54. Days before the stretch of losses St. Charles High School suffered a more significant loss when their resource officer was found deceased in his personal vehicle on the side of the road in Prince George’s County. Corporal Patrick “P.J.” Mann served as the school’s resource officer from the day it opened its doors in 2014. According to the Spartans’ head coach Brett Campbell, “no one in the school was closer” to his players. Missing practice and dealing with the grief plagued the Spartans, who were finally able to return to some semblance of a normal practice schedule this past week, preparing for another tough contest against North Point.

The Spartans traveled the short distance up the road this past Monday, Feb. 11, where Cpl. Mann was honored before the game with a moment of silence and ribbons pinned to the players warm-up shirts. In front of a packed house of spectators, St. Charles took a period before hitting peak performance. The Spartans opened up the second period with a nine-point run lead by 6’4” senior E’mari Johnson. But the Eagles weren’t giving up yet. After a few stops and some points off the bench, North Point was able to put together a seven-point run of their own before the end of the half, cutting the lead to eight.

Carrying that momentum into the third, the Eagles outscored the Spartans by three to cut a little more into their lead. With a five-point game in the fourth, North Point's players began to play “selfish” basketball, wanting to “be the guy who makes a play instead of doing the things that got them there,” according to North Point Head Coach Jimmy Ball. “We had a lot of empty possessions. They were in big foul trouble and all we needed to do was ball fake and attack. We didn’t play smart in the fourth quarter because of that.” North Point scored just eight points in the fourth period, leading to a disappointing 14-point loss to one of their in-county rivals. “We’ve got to find some semblance of what we looked like and get ready for the playoffs.”

Though a disappointing loss for the Eagles, who are eliminated from a conference championship, the game was a return to form for the Spartans who won only their second game in three weeks. “The biggest difference compared to the last few weeks is us being in the gym. We finished the right way, we got stops and rebounds,” said coach Campbell after the game. St. Charles racked up 43 rebounds, versus North Point’s 23, the much taller Spartans commanded the boards and had four players in double digits, as opposed to the Eagles single player reaching double-figures.

St. Charles junior guard Omar Mcgann was a pivotal part of the win, shooting 3-for-6 from beyond the arc and notching 13-points in the game. According to his coach the “more important” aspect of his play Monday night was on the defensive end where he recorded five rebounds, a steal and two charges. The junior guard expressed the importance of plays like charges to shifting the energy on the court. “It’s always important to keep energy on the floor, doing the little things like taking a charge, diving for the ball, or of course hitting a three gets everyone hyped.” The momentum changes on the floor are something Mcgann stated is essential when playing in an opponent’s packed gymnasium.

The Spartans improved to (15-4) on the year and finish up the regular season with rematches against Lackey and Westlake. North Point suffered their fifth loss, moving to (15-5) on the year and will face La Plata and Westlake for their last two contests. Both teams are poised for the playoffs in March as the season winds down.

Contact Jerold Massie at staffwriter@thebaynet.com.

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