GAITHERSBURG — Starting off the boys’ basketball season with a win, it was a battle of endurance at Gaithersburg High School where the Gaithersburg Trojans triumphed over the Wheaton Knights, 71-59.
The game also featured 13-year-old Gaithersburg freshman shooting guard Jao Ituka in his first high school game. Ituka scored only eight points, but Trojans head coach Jeffrey Holda expects some growing pains to help him improve.
“He just needs experience, game experience. He works hard on his own game and in the weight room. He’s the player he is because of his own effort,” said Holda.
The Knights started off the game well and managed to keep the score tight in the first quarter, but created costly mistakes that the Trojans were all too glad to take advantage of.
A porous Wheaton defense led to Gaithersburg scoring streaks and the constant turnovers only grew in frequency later in the game which sealed the visitors’ fate on Tuesday night.
“We had just consecutive turnovers, and that’s really what killed us, and that’s what gave them that lead and why they were able to keep that lead,” said Wheaton head coach Brenton McCoy.
The lead grew in the second quarter, but the Knights managed to keep in within comeback distance and headed into halftime down by six.
Ituka scored four points in the second quarter, while senior Trojans point guard Julio Tamakloe made seven. Senior Knights shooting guard Detrick Ntam scored four points for his side.
Once both teams came back from the intermission, the game started to pick up. Senior point guard Kevin Neal scored six points in an eight-point run where pressure from Gaithersburg forced Wheaton into making costly mistakes.
The Knights weren’t going to go out with a whimper, however, and regained the moxie they had in the first quarter. They outscored the Trojans, for the first time in the game, 20-19.
It was not enough, however, even as the Knights pulled off a surprising eight-point barrage in the last minute of the game.
“All that really mattered was that we got the W [win], and I could’ve played a little better but I’m happy we won,” said Ituka.