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Boys basketball team plays in Bowie event

Archbishop Neale School has a lot to be proud of with its seventh- and eighth-grade varsity boys basketball team.

Recently, Archbishop Neale stepped outside of its comfort zone to put it to the test against some of the best basketball talent in the Washington D.C., area and entered into the Holy Trinity “Nothing But Net” Basketball Event in Bowie.

Teams included were Holy Family, Washington Jesuit, Mt. Calvary, Holy Trinity, St. Jerome's, Our Lady of Mercy, St. Ambrose and Our Lady Queen of Peace, who ended the tournament as boys “A” champion.

The theme of the weekend for Archbishop Neale seemed to go from, “Who are you guys and where are you from?” to having coaches and referees say, "Your team is real scrappy and tough, they look good and are a well disciplined, good team.”

Archbishop Neale opened the event on Nov. 17 against Mt. Calvary. The team was nervous and it showed early, but hung in there, fought tough and made it a respectable game, losing 46-38. Jonathon Preston lead Archbishop Neale in scoring with 13 points followed by Jalen Gibbs with 12.

Archbishop Neale came back that evening scheduled to play a top level team in Holy Family, which has a kid who is 6-feet-4 and probably weighs 240 pounds along with a super star point guard.

The Archbishop Neale coaches got together with a plan called “David vs. Goliath” and coach Ernie Chambers actually read the story to the team in the locker room.

It fired the team up because they knew they needed to take the big kid out of his game in order to have a chance, so the job was given to Nico Pe.

Pe, with the help of Preston, rose to the occasion in the biggest way. They frustrated him so much that in the third quarter he lashed out and struck Pe in the mouth with his elbow. The kid was given a technical foul and removed from the game by his coach.

Pe held him to scoring just five points while scoring four points himself, so needless to say the team was very proud of Pe.

Archbishop Neale played tough and scrapped for every loose ball like CJ Weirich, who got shook like a rag doll by their big man once when the two of them went for the same loose ball.

The game came down to the last minute and Archbishp Neale lost 35-30 and we managed to hold Holy Family's players to a high scoring mark of nine points by their point guard.

Holy Family is a top-quality team with top quality players and coaching. Archbishop Neale won a ton of respect by playing scrappy, tough defense and competing with a team who outsized it by a significant margin.

In addition, there were three coaches watching the game from top notch Washington Catholic Athletic Conference high school who were there scouting Holy Family’s players and they stayed until the final buzzer.

Then, following the game, they approached one of the coaches to compliment the boys effort as did numerous people from the crowd.

No one could believe Archbishop Neale didn't get beat by 30 points.

Still, Archbishop Neale was 0-2, which never feels good. The boys returned on Nov. 18 to play against Holy Trinity in the consolation game and they definitely settled in and felt more comfortable as a team.

Shots that weren't falling started to with supporting players leading the way.

Hakeem Everett scored 12 points and Weirich scored 10. Preston had nine, Gibbs eight and Ryan Oglesby had seven. AJ Davis, a seventh-grader, had a nasty block when he swatted a shot into the stands and Oglesby lead the attack on the boards with 15 rebounds.

Archbishop Neale struggled with its shots all weekend, but this game was different. Between Oglesby, Gibbs and Weirich, it made 8 out of 11 free throws in the final quarter to protect the lead and close Holy Trinity out 46-35. The team’s defensive pressure was the key.

Archbishop Neale ended the weekend at 1-2, but had an incredible learning experience.

Archbishop Neale was successful in beating St. Joe's 44-22 on Dec. 17 to win the championship for the St. Louis Holiday Hoops Tournament held at St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel. It beat Holy Trinity, emerged victorious in double overtime against St. Pius, then beat St. Joe's in the championship game.

Preston, Gibbs and Everett were selected to the all-tournament team, with Preston being named Most Valuable Player of the championship game.

The team is a part of the Sunday Youth Basketball League.

This report was submitted by Archbishop Neale coach Cal Weirich