High School

St. John's athletic director out and source says football coach considering exit

Matt Seal

St. John's athletic director out and source says football coach considering exit

Athletic director Brian Griffin has left St. John’s and accepted the position of Director of Football and IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla).

On Griffins’ watch, the Cadets excelled in myriad athletic endeavors, becoming the region’s powerhouse in multiple sports.

“St. John’s is grateful for Brian Griffin’s leadership, passion, dedication and commitment to our students and the school community,” said Jeff Mancabelli, St. John’s president in a statement. 

“During the past six years, our student-athletes earned 29 WCAC championships, but more importantly, they learned important life lessons and what it means to support one another,”

According to those who worked with him, Griffin was dedicated to the development of the total student-athlete; investing in their lives both on and off of the playing fields.

“Under his leadership, St. John’s elevated its athletic programs to the highest standards,” said Mancabelli. “Building a foundation of support services and creating a culture of excellence that emphasized personal responsibility and what it means to be a part of a team.”

The St. John’s football program endured a grueling schedule last season. Seven of their opponents finished the year ranked nationally. They traveled as far as Texas and hosted the likes of Mater Dei (Ca) and IMG in consecutive weekends—at one point dropping four games in a row.

Griffin and head coach Joe Casamento received outside criticism for undertaking such a daunting task. According to sources, Casamento is considering stepping away from his position as coach of the Cadets, but Mancabelli insists Griffin’s move had little to do with football.

“This difficult career decision was truly about family,” said Mancabelli. “After being apart for the last two school years, Griff will be reunited with his family at IMG Academy, where his youngest child, Erin, is an eighth-grader. We wish him well as he moves on to the next chapter.”

Prior to his tenure at St. John’s, Griffin was a vice president at IMG. He could not be reached for comment but posted to Twitter:

“I am so excited to be back with my family @IMGA! I have nothing but love for St. John’s and the amazing student-athletes, coaches and community that have built such a strong ‘culture of excellence’.

Roosevelt overcomes ghost of past, defeats Wilson to claim DCIAA title

Roosevelt overcomes ghost of past, defeats Wilson to claim DCIAA title

When the final buzzer sounded, Roosevelt's coach Rob Nickens felt the emotion of the moment begin to swell inside his body. Student athletes celebrated in myriad ways; some jumping for joy, others collapsing to the floor while the brazen of the bunch found cell phone cameras to confidently proclaim their conquest to.

There was jubilation on the floor of the Entertainment and Sports arena as the proverbial David had just slain Goliath. Parents and family members began making their way to the court to join the celebration, but alone on the sidelines stood Nickens, now with tears streaming uncontrollably down his face, appearing to not want to get too close in fear of finding out it wasn’t real.

“This is a dream come true. I’ve prayed about it, continued to work hard and believed in the vision,” Nickens said. “This has been a five-year chase. Everybody gave up on us, but we didn’t give up on each other.”

It was very real. The Roughriders just won their first DCIAA championship since 2014, and they’d done so by defeating arch-nemesis Wilson 66-63. The Tigers were the three-time defending city champion. They’d defeated Roosevelt in each of those championship games.

“To do it on this stage after being down double-digits is incredible,” Nickens said. “ The kids never gave up -- that’s what I’m so happy about. We’ve been city champions before, but nobody really gave us credit for that.”

Despite architecting a one-loss season and entering the tournament as the 1-seed, Roosevelt knew in order to earn ultimate validation, they’d need to go through Wilson, a program which beat them soundly on the EAS floor 92-48 in the previous year's championship game.

Coach Angelo Hernadez’s team jumped out to an early first quarter lead. Wilson's ball pressure forced turnovers, allowing the Tigers to run in the open court and score 13 first-half points in transition. Behind strong starts by Darren Buchanan and Nasir Best, Wilson led 33-28 at the half.

The Tigers extended their lead in the third. Jay Young Jr.’s four-point play pushed the lead to nine. As the quarter came to a close, it appeared as though Roose would meet the same fate it had in the previous three championship matchups between the teams. Nickens implored his young men to look inside themselves and remember what got them to this point.

“We just had to put pressure on the ball and play the way we played all year,” Nickens said. “ It’s no need to get to this stage and change. We’d been doing the same things the last 29 games and we were 28-1.”

Nickens knew in order to knock off the prolific Tigers, he’d need a total team effort, so with the game in the balance and leading scorer Jasir Tremble being contained, he turned to reserve guard James Pitts to drive the Riders home. Pitts responded by making countless big plays on both ends of the court, scoring 19 points and calmly sinking 11-of-12 from the free-throw line.

According to Pitts, responding to the pressure of the moment came second-nature to him.

“We shoot 150 free throws a day,” Pitts said, “so the crowd noise didn’t bother me. I just felt like I was there by myself at the free throw line.”

Pitts’ exploits helped him earn game MVP. Nickens knew his junior guard was capable of coming up big in big moments.

“He’s played well all year for us. Just because you don’t start at Roose doesn’t mean you can’t be productive,” Nickens said. “His minutes were big -- he scored, what, 14 points in the 4th quarter? He’s a warrior.”

Roosevelt accomplished one of its goals by winning the DCIAA city championship. Nickens will now set the team's aim on the DCSAA states.

“I’ve won a state championship before,” Nickens said. “You have to play every game like it’s your last, but we’ll be ready. Trust Me!”

DCIAA Men's Basketball Final Four Preview

DCIAA Men's Basketball Final Four Preview

The DCIAA has belonged to the Wilson Tigers as of late. They’ve won three consecutive conference championships solidifying coach Angelo Hernandez’s recent proclamation that “the road to the title runs through Tenleytown.”

This year, that could change. Heading into the weekend’s Final Four, the 2-seeded Tigers title coronation feels more in peril than in years past. Many of the teams 2019 standouts are no longer donning the Green and Grey. Dimingus Stevens transferred to Bishop Walsh during the offseason, Mahki and Mahkel Mitchell last played at UMD before entering the transfer portal and Jay Heath Jr. is making his home at Boston College. Furthermore, 2018 stars Ayinde Hikim and Ricky Lindo are not walking through that door either.

The Tigers competition has grown more ferocious as well as they do not enter the weekend as the presumptive favorite; that designation belongs to 27-1, Roosevelt. Coach Nickens 1-seeded Roughriders have made it to 4-consecutive DCIAA finals, losing on 3 occasions to the Tigers and once to H.D. Woodson. Experts believe though that this is the season Roosevelt gets revenge and brings the conference trophy home to the Milk House.

The Final Four grouping is rounded out by 4-seed Dunbar and 6-seed H.D. Woodson, two teams that have proven capable of competing with anybody. 

Here’s a breakdown of the match-ups:

#2 Wilson (22-3) vs. #6 H.D. Woodson (14-10)
Wilson defeated H.D. at Woodson, 78-64 on December 11th
Game Time: Sat 2/15 at 2:00 p.m.

H.D. Woodson
The Warriors went into Coolidge Wednesday night and knocked off the 3-seed Colts. Trailing most of the game, De’Vontae Gliss connected on an off-balance heave as time expired, lifting H.D. to the 69-67 victory. 

The Warriors were paced this season by DCIAA leading scorer Deontay Cozart, who averages 21 ppg. Though they lost to Wilson earlier in the season, this is a different team than the one the Tigers faced in December. They took top-seeded Roosevelt to overtime and have won eight of their last nine games.

H.D. is playing its best basketball at the right time.

This year’s Tigers may not have the size, depth or requisite prowess of last year bunch but make no mistake about it, they’re just as capable of winning it all. Wilson has won 13 in a row, including an opening-round shellacking of Ron Brown by a final score of 63-35.

The current iteration of the Tigers relies on space and pace, often using small-ball to spread the floor and seek out advantageous match-ups. 

Miasiah Brown and Nasir Best penetrate the paint leading to open looks for knockdown shooters Eric Morgan and Jay Young. Darren Buchanan is a rim-rocking sophomore capable of doing it all. On any given night, he may lead Wilson in scoring, rebounds and/or assists, while guarding as many as 5 positions. 

Coach Angelo Hernandez has changed the narrative of what it means to be a Wilson Tiger. If he is able to lead his team to a championship this year, it may be his best coaching job yet.

#1 Roosevelt (27-1) vs. #4 Dunbar (15-12)
Roose defeated Dunbar 64-34 at Dunbar on December 11th
Game Time: Sat 2/15 at 6:00 p.m.

Dunbar has had an up and down season, but coach Singletary’s Crimson Tide hopes to ride the wave of their 65-64 emotional victory over Anacostia in the opening round of the DCIAA to an upset of the top-seeded Roughriders.

Junior Michall Cheadle is the key to the Dunbar attack. A terror on both ends of the court, he leads the Tide in scoring, steals and assists. If he and Milton Milling can get going early, the Tide have a chance of standing toe-to-toe with powerhouse Roose.

Roosevelt crushed McKinley Tech in round 1 by a final score of 64-38.  The victory was the Riders’ 10th consecutive—9 of which have come by double-digits.

Roose was 3-0 during the regular season vs. the other final four contestants, including their 64-34 win over Dunbar. 

Jasir Tremble leads the team in scoring, Ryan Blakey was 3rd in the conference in assists and 2nd in steals. Perhaps the key to coach Rob Nickens’ run for the crown is power forward Marcel Gabriel. The 6’4 senior patrols the interior, averaging 6 rebounds and 2 blocks to go with his 8 points per game.

All DCIAA semi-final and finals are to be played at the Entertainment and Sports arena in Washington D.C. The corresponding girl's games will be played there as well.