Falcons fight tough times

Latest loss drops team to 3-9 under new coach

Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007

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christopher anderson⁄The Gazette
Central’s Marquise Simmons (left) looks for the dunk over Surrattsville’s Markese Green during Tuesday’s game in Capitol Heights.

Many times in the past, county basketball teams could anticipate an easy victory when the Surrattsville High School boys’ basketball team came to visit.

Last season, most squads earned a ‘‘W” when they matched up against the Hornets, as Surrattsville won just three contests.

Ulysses Lee was hired during the offseason and entered this winter wanting to change the culture of losing the Hornets have endured for a number of years.

After Tuesday’s 75-59 triumph on the road against Central High, Surrattsville celebrated its 10th victory in 13 outings this season.

But Lee can find only limited satisfaction with the Hornets’ start.

‘‘I don’t think we are where we should be,” Lee said. ‘‘We’re still making some mistakes.”

In his full-time job as a county police officer, Lee is forced to do his job with a high degree of discipline. And the first-year Hornets coach expects for his team to be a reflection of how he carries himself.

‘‘Every little thing that we do is so that we can get better as a team,” said Hornets’ guard Jarrett Dillard. ‘‘I think that the attitude of the team has most definitely changed. In practice, we work hard and we all have the same agenda, and that is to win.”

Lee said he expects his players to show up to school every day on time. Every player must properly wear his school uniform every day. Mandatory study hall for the players follows the conclusion of every school day. Hornets’ players even have to maintain a certain degree of grooming.

Surrattsville’s performance against the Falcons on Tuesday gave the indication that the changes Lee has enforced are translating to success on the court.

Hornets’ swingman Jamahl Brown finished with a game-high 29 points, while Dillard added eight. Guard Paul Morrison added 10 points and eight rebounds.

‘‘Coach Lee has been on my back since he got here,” Brown said. ‘‘He put his foot in my butt to get better. I think that you can see the discipline he has brought in our record and the way we have come together as a team.”

Meanwhile, Central’s first season under former assistant coach David Kontaxis has not gone as well. The Falcons fell to 3-9 with Tuesday’s loss.

Kontaxis is not the only new face on the Falcons’ varsity team.

‘‘It’s been kind of tough for everybody,” said Central junior guard Phillip Robinson. ‘‘For almost all of us, it’s our first year playing together. We just have to get on the same page and keep our focus, which is the state championship.”

Falcons’ junior forward Marquise Simmons has been thrust into a leadership role. He has averaged around 20 points and 14 rebounds per game this season. Tuesday night, Simmons scored a team-high 24 points while Robinson added nine points and Falcons’ guard Christian Kaman added seven points.

‘‘We made progress over last summer, but we’re still a work in progress,” Simmons said. ‘‘Some people are just not used to playing on the varsity level. But our coach has continued to encourage us to play hard and represent ourselves and our school when we get out there.”

Kontaxis hopes the Falcons can continue to get better as the season progresses. He has tried a number of motivators to get the team going like writing out the Falcons’ pre-game goals on the chalkboard prior to every contest. But Kontaxis understands that improvement may take some time.

‘‘It’s a young team and we’re trying to get them to pick up the little things,” Kontaxis said. ‘‘We have to learn more on how to play the game of basketball. I just want for them to work on their consistency. They have to learn that they have to bring it every game and every practice. I think it will come.”

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.