By Brandy L. Simms @bls1969
GAITHERSBURG — A Saturday matinee at Gaithersburg High School featured sophomore standouts Jao Ituka and Jordan Hawkins who combined for 61 points to lead the Trojans to an 84-60 victory over the visiting Rockville Rams.
Ituka scored a game-high 33 points and Hawkins finished with 28 points which helps Gaithersburg improve to 2-0.
Meanwhile, Rockville, who fell to 0-2, was led by junior Daniel Pujo who finished with a team-high 10 points.
As freshmen, Ituka and Hawkins helped lead the Trojans to their first state semifinal appearance in 20 years. Gaithersburg finished the 2017-18 campaign at 20-6 and captured the 4A West regional championship.
Hawkins said his experience guiding the Trojans to the state semifinals was a humbling one.
“Playing there as a freshman taught me a lot,” said Hawkins.
Despite the graduation of Kevin Neal and Julio Tamakloe, the Trojans should make waves once again with Ituka and Hawkins leading the way.
Ituka and Hawkins have both developed their games since last season by working out in the weight room and playing summer league basketball games together.
Hawkins said he was a gym rat after the Trojans fell in the state semifinal game to eventual state champion Perry Hall.
“I think I improved a lot,” said Hawkins. “After that game, I don’t think I stayed out of the gym.”
Ituka and Hawkins showed a lot of chemistry against Rockville; the two players put on a show for the fans.
The dynamic duo helped Gaithersburg jump out to a 23-14 first quarter lead and then traded baskets in the second quarter to put the Trojans ahead at the intermission, 42-26.
In the second half, Hawkins drained long range jump shots including three-pointers and Ituka rattled the rim with his crowd-pleasing dunks.
“They’re one of the best teams in the state,” said Rockville head coach Todd Dembroski. “They’re a well-coached team. They have two great players. Jao and Hawkins, they are high-level college players in my opinion. The sky is the limit with them.”