The 2015-2016 Northwest boys basketball season came to an end Friday night, as the Kennedy Cavaliers defeated the Jags 74-65 in the first round of the post-season at Kennedy High School in Silver Spring.
The Jags entered the post-season with a 7-15 record against a Kennedy team which had won 15 and lost seven. Northwest struggled all season to beat teams with winning records. The only exception was a Jan. 15 victory over an injury-depleted Clarksburg team.
“We said it all year, we were better then what our record was,” said Northwest Head Coach Robert Smith. “You could see it in the last game. Kennedy is a very good pressuring, transition team.”
Kennedy’s pressure combined with a slow start by the Jags made it difficult for Jags to climb back in the second half. Northwest was held to just six points in the first quarter and 12 in the second quarter, allowing Kennedy to take a 35-18 lead into halftime. Kennedy’s junior Jonathan Mustamu had 15 of his total 26 points in the first half, including three 3-pointers. Kennedy had three other players in double-digits; junior Jomaite Tavarez had 15 points while senior Dexter Pelap finished with 11 points, and sophomore Jason Nyamey added 10 points.
The Jags fought back after halftime coming back to within four points. “At the start of the third quarter we made some adjustments and started chipping away at the 18 point deficit,” said Smith. “I told the guys to take it one basket at a time and one stop at a time. We worked it back to a four-point deficit with two minutes to go.”
The Jags scored 15 in the third quarter and 32 points in the fourth, with sophomore Norval Black scoring all of his nine points in the last quarter. Senior Nick Pinto added another eight points in the fourth. Northwest finished with three players in double-digits; sophomore TJ Williams had 15 points and seniors Tim Biakapia and Tyrell Richardson added 13 points apiece.
The Jags’ final game was in some ways a microcosm of the season as the team was competitive and in the game, but was unable to get over the hump and earn the win. “That has been the story all year for us,” said Smith. “Our guys played hard, but we had too many mental mistakes against good teams.”
“We won't be able to replace any of our seniors,” said Smith. “Justin Woodard and Nick Pinto picked up point guard duty while have never really playing that role, both being shooting guards. Ty Richardson is still ranked in All-Mets for rebounds, and his presence on the court will be a huge hole to fill. Tim Biakapia is by far one of the most athletic kids I have coached and is still developing as a player.” Smith said his other seniors, Masangu Mbayo, Matt Gorenstein, Mileke Omar, and Alex Thomas, played smaller roles but were like having another starting group at practice.
While success on the court is a priority, Coach Smith made a point to say that this year’s boys basketball team has the highest team GPA of any team in the last five season, thanks in a large part to the diligence and leadership of its seniors. “This is always goal one for me as a coach; these seniors were all good role models off the court. As students and people, they got it. They will all be successful at the next level,” said Smith.
With the victory, Kennedy improves to 16-7 and will advance in the playoffs and be on the road on Monday night facing 17-6 Gaithersburg, who defeated Einstein 64-52.
Top: Northwest’s senior Tim Biakapia (25) and Kennedy’s Dexter Pelap (20) battle for a loose ball during Friday’s opening round playoff match.
Next: Senior Mileke Omar (30) takes a jumper. He would finish with seven points.
Photos by Mark Poetker for Germantown Pulse.