Inside the constrictive and dimly lit gymnasium at Grace Christian Academy on Wednesday afternoon, the boys and girls varsity basketball teams shared equal practice space on opposite ends of the floor and common goals for the current season.
The boys (0-1) and girls (2-1) have already kicked off the 2017-18 season which their respective coaches, Brian Deschaine and Dan Perrotta, would like to see end with a pair of titles. The boys, who were 17-13 overall last winter, including a 6-3 mark in the Metro Independent Schools Athletic League, and girls (12-11, 1-7) capped their 2016-17 seasons with a Mid-Eastern Regional Christian Schools tournament championship.
But this winter Deschaine and Perrotta admitted their long term objective will not include defending their titles in the MERCS, since it lands on the same weekend of the Maryland Christian Schools Tournament. The MCST typically attracts a field of 24 teams for each gender bracket and the tournament is listed as open but limited to schools that do not field a scholarship athlete, preventing the likes of DeMatha, Good Counsel and Riverdale Baptist from arriving.
“We graduated three starters and another player who started the first week of the season then got hurt and missed the rest of the season,” said Deschaine, whose team opened the slate on Tuesday with a 65-63 home setback versus Spencerville of Montgomery County, which is not in the MISAL this season. “We have a lot of talent on this team and we can still make a bid for the MISAL title. But it’s going to take some time for them to all jell together.”
Grace may have graduated several top players, including Josh Jones, Quinton Butler and Nate Owens, but it returns a solid group that includes seniors Cameron Satterthwaite, Desean Estepp, John Stokes, Jordan Collins, Kevin Saunders, K.J. Young and Samson Wheeler and also boasts juniors Aaron Beach, Darryl Franklin, Isaiah Satterthwaite, Kevon Diggs-Jones and Logan Barney.
“There’s a lot of talent on this team,” said Deschaine, now in his sixth season as the head boys basketball coach and fourth as athletic director. “I still think we can go out there and compete with anyone night after night. We let the opening game get away, but that’s mainly because we have a lot of new guys playing different positions and Spencerville basically has everybody back. That makes a big difference, especially early in the season.”
Perrotta, whose daughter Katelynn Perrotta is among the starters, is very optimistic about what he has seen from the Knights in their first three contests, two of which were lopsided victories. Seniors Anastasia Allen, who eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier in her career in the season opener, point guard Karleigh Cohen and Ariana Satterthwaite will be among the principle players this winter who will be the key to the Knights’ success.
“I’m really excited about our teams’s chances of winning the MISAL,” Dan Perrotta said. “I really like what our seniors bring to the team in terms of leadership. We have a good corps group of younger players, but the key is our seniors. We bounced back from that first game and won our next two games pretty easily. I can’t wait to see how well we’’ll do in the league once we get into that portion of our schedule.”
Last winter, the boys from King’s Christian Academy in St. Mary’s County (21-1, 8-0) dominated the regular season and then edged Grace for the tournament title, while the King’s girls (22-7, 7-0) won the MISAL and MCST titles. But the girls will have a decidedly new look as Damien Rivers takes over for Toyja Somerville, who moved on to St. Mary’s Ryken, and has a young, rebuilding group that includes junior returner Sarah MacDonald and transfers Jamie Metcalf (Patuxent) and Dejanae Green (Great Mills).
“Our goals this year are still going to be to compete for the MISAL title,” Rivers said. “I know we lost a lost to graduation, but we have players with a lot of potential. It might take a few games, but this team is going to be good. I really don’t imagine we’ll have a big drop-off this season. We have a group of girls that has learned a lot so far and they’re getting better with each practice.”
Blaine Somerville returns as the King’s boys coach and brings a roster that includes seniors Cameron Smith, Moses Weaver and Jalen Sauls, juniors Kenny Russell, Jordon Watkins, Chris Fenwick, Jaden Johnson, Christopher Christian, William Beale and Devin Johnson and sophomores Justus Sewell and Cedric Sobola.
Last season, the Southern Maryland Christian Academy boys (8-6, 3-5) were among the teams in the middle of the pack, but this winter the Mustangs have a senior-laden group led by Adrian Jones, Shammar O’Bryant, Isaiah Miles, Jahlani Schatzman and Luke Colaciello. SMCA juniors include Christopher Taylor, Gerald Plummer, Nick Caboga and Ricky Crooks and the Mustangs will also carry two sophomores and two freshmen on the roster.
Calverton School, the lone Calvert County squad in the MISAL, had decided mixed results from its two programs.
The boys (0-14, 0-9) failed to win a game, while the girls (11-7, 5-3) posted winning marks overall and in the league. The Cougars head into the 2017-18 slate with a new athletic director in Jamie McNealey and new boys and girls basketball coaches in Mike Leo and Robert Emmert, respectively.