Graduation losses last June hit the Madison High boys' basketball squad hard. Just one current player - senior guard TJ Ehrsam - saw varsity playing time a year ago.
So, it was no real surprise that the Warhawks, under veteran head coach Chris Kuhblank, had lost their first four games to start the new season. The latter of those defeats came on Tuesday, Dec. 15 when Madison fell to visiting South Lakes, 54-42, in both teams' Liberty District opener.
"We're a team that's very inexperienced," said Kuhblank, whose more experienced Madison team a year ago went 13-7 during the regular season with a 9-5 district mark. "TJ is the only player who had varsity playing time last year. We graduated a lot."
Ehrsam, the Madison team captain, scored four points in the loss to South Lakes (2-1). Madison's top scorers in the game were senior wing Ray Howard (10 points) and junior post player Dan McNereny (8). Junior guard Kavan Ranasinghe added six points.
Madison's first three games were setbacks to Chantilly, 64-25, local private school power Bishop O'Connell (Arlington), 74-34, and Forest Park (Dale City), 60-42. The O'Connell game took place at Madison, with the other contests were on the road.
Over time, Madison will certainly gain experience in the varsity game and show improvement.
Ehrsam, who scored nine points in the loss to O'Connell, fills several roles for the Warhawks in their backcourt. He received good playing time as a backup last year.
"TJ's a great leader for us," said Kuhblank. "He's playing all guard positions, depending on who's in the game. He brings toughness and grit and finds a way to get it done. He's our defensive stopper."
The coach believes Ehrsam will be one of the district's top defensive players this winter.
Ranasinghe, who played point guard for the Madison JV last year, could develop into a solid varsity player, and freshman power forward Patrick Devens, who is 6-2, brings lots of potential to the line-up.
Kuhblank is impressed with his team's hard work ethic and all-out hustle in practices and games.
"We're practicing hard every day, working hard and getting better," he said.
The Warhawks will continue to play hard and try to pick up some wins along the way.
"We'll take our lumps early, keep plugging away and by tournament time we'll no longer be inexperienced," said the coach. "We're going to have to score by committee. We're small, young and inexperienced."
Madison will travel to Orlando, Fla. to take part in the KSA Holiday Basketball Tournament at Disney's Wide World of Sports facility, Dec. 27 through Jan. 1. Madison also competed at the Florida showcase event in both 2004 and 2007. Sixty-plus boys' and girls' teams will take part in the KSA tournament. Madison will compete in an eight-team boys' bracket.
"It's a great tournament," said Kuhblank, whose 2007 Madison team captured first place in Florida.
Prior to its holiday trip down south, Madison was scheduled to play home games against Northern Region opponents Oakton on Friday, Dec. 18 and Stone Bridge on Tuesday, Dec. 22. The Stone Bridge game is a district affair.