The Koons Athletic Center at Bishop O’Connell High School is quiet no longer.
The gymnasium roared back to life with much-missed basketball action for the first time in 22 months the night of Dec. 9, when the Knights hosted the Madison Warhawks of Vienna in a girls and boys varsity doubleheader. O’Connell played no games at the venue last season because of COVID.
In those two home-opening contests for O’Connell, the Madison girls won the opener, 51-40, and the O’Connell boys were victorious in a rout, 93-61, in the second.
“It was so great to be back in this gym for real, with fans watching and cheering and all,” O’Connell girls coach Aggie McCormick-Dix said. “Everyone missed all of this fun so much.”
Included among the spectators was a decent sized and lively O’Connell student section, cheering hard for each of their private-school teams.
O’Connell sophomore forward Keira Scott was especially happy to finally play a home game.
“I wanted to play so badly here last season when I was a freshman, but we couldn’t,” Scott said. “Finally we had a real home game and it was a great atmosphere.”
Scott led her team with a strong all-around performance against the two-time defending public-school Class 6 state champion and undefeated Warhawks (5-0). She scored 21 points, had five rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
Junior forward Sophia Carlisle had eight points and six rebounds for O’Connell, and junior point guard Nia Grymes had three points and four boards.
O’Connell took a 3-0 lead on a three-pointer by Ava Limcaoco, then eventually fell behind 10-7 in the first quarter and never led again. Madison outscored the Knights 11-5 in the second quarter to lead 28-16 at halftime.
“We made too many young mistakes in that second quarter,” McCormick-Dix said. “We are babies as far as varsity experience, and we have such a young team. We are trying to build a bench and develop things.”
Said Scott: “We did a lot of small things wrong, but a game against a team like this, with they way they play and shoot, will help us.”
One of O’Connell’s top players and most experienced was expected to be senior guard Aaliyah Carlock. She suffered what could be a season-ending knee injury during one of the Knights’ scrimmage contests.
* The O’Connell boys had five players score in double figures against Madison. Senior guard Cavan Reilly (five three-pointers) and Christian May each tallied 19 points. May also yanked 10 rebounds to go with three steals.
Sophomore guard Del Jones had 12 points and senior guard Paul Lewis (six steals, five rebounds) and senior center David Onanina (eight rebounds) each scored 10. Sophomore guard/forward Jadyn Harris had 11 rebound and six points and senior forward Job Grant added six points and two steals.
O’Connell made 12 three-pointers and the Knights outrebounded Madison, 43-23.
O’Connell led 20-7 at the end of the first quarter, 41-30 at halftime and 71-50 after three periods.
O’Connell boys coach Joe Wootten said the team played better then in it’s opening game, an 81-66 road loss to Huntington Prep.
“I didn’t have us with any turnovers, so that was a big improvement from our first game,” Wootten said. “Madison played hard and ran their stuff well. They are hard to guard, and they play a different style. That was good for us to see and experience.”
Since the Knights didn’t play a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference schedule last season, the team has just three players with any previous experience playing league games.
“We’re young and lack experience, but I like this team. We have a lot of talent, we are resilient and we will get better,” Wootten said.
NOTES: May (Towson University) and Reilly (University of Delaware) already have committed to play Division I college basketball. Lewis and Onanina also likely will play at the Division I level . . . The Dec. 9 doubleheader was a Toys for Tots event at O’Connell. Anyone who brought a new toy was admitted free, with boxes of toys inside the gymnasium lobby spilling over.