Madison High boys’ basketball coach Chris Kuhblank likes to take the long view approach to the winter hoops season. That is the primary reason the Warhawks always seem to be playing some of the metropolitan area’s top teams early on every season – to help them get a taste of the best competition right from the start in hopes that in playing such high caliber opponents, it will make Madison a better team as the season progresses.
The down side to playing such a difficult early schedule is that victories are hard to come by. That has been the case early on for Madison, which was 0-3 going into this week – the losses coming at perennial private school power Bishop O’Connell, 75-34, on Dec. 1; at defending Northern Region champion Chantilly, 51-43, on Dec. 3; and home against a solid Forest Park (Woodbridge) team, 67-54, on Dec. 7.
“We play a tough schedule early on purpose,” said Kuhblank. “We try and schedule that way every year. Basketball is a true tournament sport and we try and play our best at that time [late in the season for districts and regionals]. This early tough schedule will prepare us for our district. ”
The coach likes the mental make-up of his squad. Even in losses, a coach can learn lots about his team. That has been the case with the Warhawks.
“Our chemistry, attitude and passion are there and we are getting better every day,” said Kuhblank.
Madison’s top players through its first three games have been 6-foot-3 inch junior guard Nate Favero and senior guard Ian Doyle. Favero is averaging 11 points and seven rebounds per contest. Doyle, a three-year letterman and a team captain, is playing strong across the board.
Savero and Doyle scored 16 and 12 points, respectively, in the game versus Forest Park. Also making good contributions in that game were senior post player Daniel McNerney (9 points) and junior frontcourt player Jason Mann (8). Mann, in the season opening loss to O’Connell, led Madison in scoring with 10 points.
Madison was scheduled to play road games this week at Liberty District opponent South Lakes on Tuesday, Dec. 14, and at cross-town rival Oakton High on Friday night, Dec. 17 at 7:30.
The team’s final game before Christmas will be at district opponent Stone Bridge next Tuesday night, Dec. 21.
Madison, over the holidays, will compete at the Glory Days Grill Tournament of Champions, hosted by Lake Braddock Secondary School Dec. 27-29. The eight-team field will consist of Middleburg Academy, Robinson, Madison, Hylton (Woodbridge), South Lakes, Osbourn (Manassas), Woodbridge and the host Bruins.
Four first round games will be played on Monday, Dec. 27 at Lake Braddock: Middleburg Academy versus Robinson (2:15); Madison versus Hylton (4); South Lakes versus Osbourn (5:45); and Woodbridge versus Lake Braddock (7:30).
<b>THE OAKTON HIGH COUGARS</b> opened the season with a pair of wins – victories over visiting Marshall, 77-39, on Dec. 1, and at host Stuart, 33-30, on Dec. 3 – before losing consecutive road outings at South County, 59-45, on Dec. 7 and Washington-Lee, 70-55, on Dec. 10.
Oakton (2-2) was scheduled to play non-district home games this week against Jefferson on Tuesday, Dec. 14, and Vienna-area rival Madison on Friday night, Dec. 17. Next Tuesday night, Dec. 21, the Cougars, who are coached by David Brooks, will play a game at Lee High in Springfield.
Over the holidays, Oakton will be competing in the annual Mount Vernon Christmas Tournament from Dec. 27-29.
In the season opener win over Marshall, the Cougars had three players score in double figures – senior guard Steele Shemeld (18 points), senior center Adi Hajrovic (15), and senior guard Abdi Barre (10). Oakton’s balanced scoring attack also included good contributions from senior guard Jonathan Morris (9 points), senior forward Zach Fabian (7), and senior center Marshall Dressler (6).
Marshall’s top scorers in the loss were Aaron Aggen (10 points), Shelton Hardy (7) and Mo Samantar (6).
Hajrovic, a senior captain, has been Oakton’s most consistent player through four games. He scored 25 points in the loss to South County and 20 in the setback to the Generals of Washington-Lee.
“He is really our only player who has been putting up consistent numbers,” said coach Brooks.
Oakton, in the game at Washington-Lee, led 17-13 after one quarter before the Generals outscored the Cougars 24-6 in the second quarter to gain control of the game.
<b>MARSHALL</b> (1-3) won at Stuart on Dec. 10, by a 61-47 score. Marshall’s top scorers in the victory were Aggen (15 points), Hardy (10) and Latrell Watkins (10). Samantar added nine points and Axel Boya-Tokpa scored eight. The Statesmen will be at Fairfax this Friday night for a Liberty District game.