Nicholson shows poise, earns a split decision

Crossed suffers first loss of pro career

By Ron Harris/The Sports Pulse Boxing Writer

HANOVER – It was 12:50 a.m. when the two main event fighters entered the ring at the Hall at Live! Hotel and Casino. The event was sold out, but several of the fans had left the building after a long night of professional boxing.

Laurel native Demond Nicholson survived and won a split decision over Mike Guy from Sacramento in a fight many thought was not even close. The judges saw it differently and posted scores of 95-94 twice for Nicholson and 96-93 for Guy.

Guy seemed to have only one strategy, and that was to bull rush Nicholson the entire fight and hope to land something hard. He did so in the sixth round when he caught Nicholson with a clean right hand and put him on his knees.

“I hurt him in the sixth round, and I relaxed a little, and he caught me with a good shot,” Nicholson said. “I was not hurt, but I was dizzy, and I had to hold on to get my head cleared. It was early in the round, so I had to hang in there.”

Nicholson (left) throws a punch at Mike Guy (right). Courtesy photo.

Nicholson needed to show poise because Guy was in his face for all 10 rounds. Guy did not walk in behind his jab like most skilled fighters, he just took off and smothered Nicholson with wild punches that mostly hit on Demond’s gloves.

“Guy had fought some good fighters and was on a winning streak,” said veteran trainer Calvin Ford.

“His health is fine,” said Ford. “Did you see how he got up after the knockdown and kept fighting. That showed me something.”

Nicholson’s kidney issues are well documented, and he now is a spokesman for the Kidney Foundation.

However, Nicholson (23-3-1, 20 KOs) was not aware of the judge’s scores. “I knew I had won, so I didn’t pay attention to the scores.”

Nicholson was surprised when told one of the judges gave Guy the fight. “I thought I won at least nine rounds. I think he threw one jab the entire fight.” That one jab was hard to find. Guy (12-5-1, 5 KO’s) was a tough customer. Nicholson landed many hard jabs and right-hand combinations, and he kept coming. According to Ford, Nicholson needs to move up to the next level of competition in the coming months.

There were two co-featured bouts on the night. Washington, D.C. native Jordan White scored a seventh-round TKO over Ronaldo Solis from Cancun. White caught Solis with a looping left hook clean on his chin, and the fight was waived over by referee Kenny Chevalier. White improved to 10-1. White was presented the World Boxing Council Youth Intercontinental Super Featherweight belt after his win.

The other co-feature saw Greenbelt native Sam Crossed suffer his first loss to veteran fighter, Nick Kisner from Baltimore by a unanimous decision to win the Maryland State Cruiserweight title.

Crossed is now 9-1, while Kisner improved to 22-5-1. Other locals included Laurel’s Jay Stancil, III, who won on a first-round TKO to improve to 2-0. Malik Loften from Suitland lost a unanimous decision to Charles Clark from Dallas. Brandon Chambers from Owings Mills won a split decision over Christopher Haney to improve to 3-0-1.

Cockeysville native Anthony Williams scored a knockout of Michael Brock Willis in the third round and improved to 5-1. Ebrima Jawara from Germantown won a unanimous decision over Philip Davis and took his record to 4-1. In the first fight of the night, Blaze Fidler-Hernandez from Arnold scored a unanimous decision over Edward Hatler for his first win as a pro.

Oxon Hill dominates Huntingtown in first round of playoffs (Photos)

Oxon Hill High School’s boys basketball team dominated Huntingtown High School (15-5) 83-68 on Feb. 28. The Clipppers (16-3) will now go on and advance to face undefeated St. Charles High School (20-0) next. Photos by Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse

United looks for ‘team effort’ to score goals as new MLS season begins

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON – When asked how D.C. United planned to replace its top four goal scorers from last year for season, head coach Ben Olsen paused for a moment before taking a huge breath.

Then, he began his list (or roster) of scorers, naming every player on his roster by first name, hoping they don’t hit the crossbar or add a goal off the bench.

“Maybe one or two from Bill (Hamid),” Olsen said. “It is going to be a group effort.”

United is motivated, with a reshaped roster, heading into the 2022 Major League Soccer season. Despite missing key names, expectations continue to be high for the Black-and-Red. With the addition of key names to the roster, the club hopes to make strides for a productive year, starting with their home opener against the Colorado Rapids at home today at 1 p.m.

Last season, United embarked on a year filled with high optimism, fueled by the returns of English superstar Wayne Rooney and playmaker Luciano Acosta.

However, the club only amassed 50 points for a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference. They were shut out in their final two regular season games and lost 5-1 to Toronto FC in the first round of the playoffs.

Rooney announced in the middle of the campaign that we would be leaving United to return home, citing family reasons. Acosta elected not to re-sign with United and joined Mexican club Atlas. Lastly, Black-and-Red officials were unable to strike a deal to extend midfielder Lucas Rodríguez’s loan agreement or to buy his contract from his home club, Estudiantes de La Plata.

All three combined to score 23 of United’s 42 goals, an output that Olsen believes can be replicated as a group effect.

“We rarely have that 25 (goal) a year goal scorer,” Olsen said. “It is great if you get that…but I can envision all of them scoring goals. I can see scenarios in the way we are playing where all of them can help score goals but also in providing.”

D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen. Courtesy photo.

Originally, midfielder Paul Arriola figured to be in those plans. The Chula Vista, California native, has been a mainstay for United in midfield, scoring six goals last season while becoming a key fixture on the United States Men’s National Team over the past year.

However, a harsh tackle in a preseason game caused his right anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) to tear. The club confirmed the injury and that Arriola successfully underwent surgery. He is set to be sidelined for nine months.

Despite Arriola’s injury, United has brought in reinforcements to fill in the voids. First, they opened their pocketbook to sign Peruvian international Edison Flores for a reported $5 million transfer fee and will be making $2 million a year. The 5-foot-7 midfielder, known for his dribbling abilities and goal celebrations, will look to fill the void as United’s key playmaker.

“He is an exciting and dynamic attacking player who creates and scores goals,” General Manager Dave Kasper said about Flores on Jan. 13. “What has really impressed us is his commitment to the team…he is a versatile and gritty two-way player who plays with a real pulse.”

United also executed one of the more significant trades in the offseason on Jan. 21, picking up midfielder Julian Gressel from Atlanta United for $750,000 in allocation money. The 26-year old scored 16 goals in 98 appearances, will filling as the new threat in midfield due to Arriola’s injury, with returning players Emmanuel Boateng, Ulises Segura, and Júnior Moreno adding depth.

Gressel’s pickup, along with the team’s formation change to a 4-3-3, will look to make the Black-and-Red into a more possessive side than in the past to have more players as part of the attack. Olsen said that the former Providence College’s experience in playing multiple roles in the formation would help the club adjust to the new style of play.

“I think we have enough quality to compensate,” Gressel said on how United will generate goals. “We scored three goals in the last preseason game, but it wasn’t something we worked on a lot as we tried to get our structure right, but they will come. We are more creative, and we have enough quality on the front half of the field to make stuff happen.”

The pickups are not over: United reacquired Argentina Yamil Asad, who scored nine goals in his previous stint with the club in 2018. Meanwhile, multiple reports state the club is set to acquire midfielder and former Columbus Crew captain Federico Higuain. In eight seasons in MLS, he has registered 55 goals and 63 assists and plans to help Flores as a playmaker off-the-bench.

On defense, the Black-and-Red decided not to sell defensive midfielder Russell Canouse after the club confirmed interest from a European side. He will lead the backline that will have all of its parts returning after only surrendering a league-best 38 goals last season.

Former University of Maryland defender Chris Odoi-Atsem (Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and Jamaican international Oniel Fisher (knee) add additional support on the defensive side after missing the 2019 season. Another former Terp, center back Donovan Pines, is recovering from a preseason ankle injury and will not be available until May.

And the club will not be done, Olsen said, making player improvements throughout the year. United has not won an MLS Cup since 2004 and a major trophy since 2013. After last year’s ending and the multiple player departures, club officials stress of not losing ground with the other teams in MLS while starting the new year strong.

“We are an imperfect team,” Olsen said. “We are trying to figure out who we are, but it important to do a lot of the little things to amass as many points as possible.”

Gaithersburg blows out Urbana, 67-41

By Harry Lichtman/The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer

GAITHERSBURG — The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) high school basketball playoffs began Thursday and Friday for many schools, with one 4A West matchup on Friday, Feb. 28, featuring No. 2 Gaithersburg hosting No. 7 Urbana.

Right from the get-go, the Trojans dominated the contest as they continued their home winning streak and pulverized the Hawks 67-41 to advance to the second round to take on No. 3 Clarksburg.

“We were shorthanded on a lot of guys,” said Gaithersburg head coach Jeff Holda. “We were missing three starters, and guys from the bench who hadn’t played much all year stepped up and carried the load and defended well for the first time in weeks.”

The Trojans were able to nail their shots, rebound well, and force turnovers, leading 17-2 at the end of the first quarter and 34-11 at halftime.

Senior Khalil Young started with 13 points in the first half and ended up being Gaithersburg’s leading scorer with 20 points.

“I feel pretty good,” said Young. “I feel like I played well. I did good on the defensive end and the offensive end to help the team win.”

Coach Holda was also quite impressed with Young’s performance, calling it ‘head-and-shoulders his best game he’s ever played this year.’

“But more importantly, he brought a ton of energy,” said Holda. “He blocked shots, he rebounded and was in passing lanes, and he was in a defensive stance all night. He really opens things up with his shot. He takes shots that other players wouldn’t take, but he’s a knock-down shooter, so we allowed him to take those.”

Meanwhile, senior Jao Ituka also had an impressive night, dropping 15 points and 13 rebounds, resulting in a double-double.

“I feel like it was a great performance,” said Ituka. “I made sure everybody got shots. I got shots as well, but most importantly, against a team like this who we know we’re better than, it’s best for me just to create for my teammates and give them the same opportunities that I get for myself.”

Ituka also made an impressive block, as he turned the ball over and rushed down the court to prevent a layup by swatting the ball out of bounds.

“When you turn the ball over, the best thing to do is sprint back and defend the ball,” said Ituka. “I just knew I had to stop him from scoring off my turnover. It was a great play.”

With the Trojans’ next playoff matchup against Clarksburg, Ituka believes that their toughest opponent would be Richard Montgomery High School.

“In the playoffs, there’s no time to take any team for granted,” said Ituka. “Every team is good. You never know what’s going to happen. Basketball is a game of expecting the unexpected.”

On the other side of things, Urbana’s leading scorer turned out to be senior Drew Fellows, who put up 10 points on the scoreboard.

The closest the Hawks came to be even remotely close late in the game was in the third quarter when the team trailed by 15. Urbana even scored more points than Gaithersburg in the third quarter by a margin of 21-19.

The PGCPS Boys and Girls Basketball Championships in Photos

Here are some of our favorite shots by The Sports Pulse photographer Michael R. Smith from the 2020 PGCPS Boys and Girls High School Basketball County Championships.

BSU Women survive and advance again in CIAA Tournament

By Bowie State University Athletics

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – CIAA Defensive Player of the Year Kyaja Williams stepped up big on offense to give nationally-ranked Bowie State an improbable win.

Williams produced 12 points and 10 rebounds including a layup as time expired to give Bowie State a 48-47 women’s basketball quarterfinal victory over Johnson C. Smith in the CIAA Tournament at the Spectrum Center on Thursday (2/27). Her basket capped a furious rally for the Bulldogs, who trailed by 10 points with two minutes left.

The Bulldogs (23-4 overall), seeded third in the Northern Division, will square off against Northern Division top seed Virginia Union, the two-time defending conference champion, in a semifinal matchup on Friday at 3 p.m. This will be the third meeting between the two CIAA titans, but everybody’s mind was on how Bowie State pulled out the win against Johnson C. Smith, seeded second in the Southern Division. Both BSU and JCSU split during the regular season.

The Golden Bulls (17-10 overall) kept the Bulldogs, ranked 25th in the D2SIDA National Poll, at bay much of the game. It appeared JCSU was about to finish off its opponent when All-CIAA player Le’Zarea Bowens scored on a layup for a 47-37 lead around the two-minute mark.

The situation was bleak for the Bulldogs, but they suddenly came to life, finishing the contest on an 11-0 run capped Williams’ layup. During that stretch, the Bulldogs forced several turnovers that aided their rally. For the contest, they scored 24 points on 27 Golden Bulls’ miscues.

“We turned it up the last two minutes of the game and played with some heart,” said Bowie State Head Coach Shadae Swan, who gained her 100th coaching victory. “We started slow, and I believe reality set in the fourth quarter that we were losing. We were able to get some stops on defense and score on offense.”

After JCSU was called for a charging foul, the Bulldogs inbounded the ball at midcourt following a timeout. They missed an open layup on their first attempt put retained possession after the ball went out of bounds with 2.2 seconds left.

Williams was posting her defender when she received the in-bound pass in the paint. After spinning inside near the goal, she lofted the ball softly over the rim. It bounced a couple of times before falling through, setting off a celebration on the Bowie State bench.

Williams saw no irony in scoring the winning basket even though she is well-known for her defensive prowess. She sees herself as total player, capable of producing on offense and defense.

JCSU Head Coach Stephen Joyner, Jr. says her mindset is why she came through for the Bulldogs at the end. He lamented the fact that the Golden Bulls let the contest slip away after leading nearly the entire game. The final score was Bowie State’s first lead since a 5-4 score early in the first period.

“We choked. Bottom line,” Joyner said. “I don’t know how else to explain it. I take full responsibility for it. Hats off to Bowie.”

Talanya Hutton added 11 points and Chyna Butler scored 10 points for the Bulldogs, who won despite shooting 29.9 percent from the floor. Bowens tallied a double-double for JCSU with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Aubriana Bonner added 13 points. Alexxus Sowell collected 10 rebounds for the Golden Bulls, who shot 38.3 percent.

Bowens posted seven points and six rebounds in the first half as the Golden Bulls charged out to a seven-point first period lead and stretched it to 21-12 at halftime. The Golden Bulls relied on defense to build a working margin, holding the Bulldogs to 16.1 percent shooting.

JCSU shot 46.2 percent in the first period to set the tempo, but both teams cooled off considerably in the second period. Both teams combined for three field goals as the Bulldogs shot 12.5 percent and the Golden Bulls made 10 percent of their shots.

Bonner added five points for the Golden Bulls in the first half. Hutton scored four points and Williams pulled down 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs.

The second half was all Golden Bulls until the last two minutes when Bulldogs started their late rally.

“We had to keep pushing,” Butler said. “The game is not over until the fourth quarter is over.”

The Bulldogs proved that.

Two local fighters to showcase their talents at MD Live Casino tonight (Photos)

GREENBELT – Laurel, MD native and super middleweight pro boxer Demond Nicholson (22-3-1) will take on Mike Guy (12-4-1) at Maryland Live Casino this evening (Feb.28) and is the World Boxing Council United States (USNBC) Super Middle Title champion and holds the USA Maryland State Super Middle Title belt as well.

Another prime fight of the night will be between cruiserweight Sam Crossed (9-0) and Nick Kisner (21-5-1) for the vacant USA Maryland State Cruiser Title. The undefeated boxer from Greenbelt, MD has five knockouts to his name and both fighters met weight yesterday at the official weigh-in.

Polite leads Oxon Hill to historic county championship victory, Flowers wins second consecutive title

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer

UPPER MARLBORO – With every touch of the ball, Ronald Polite commanded everyone’s attention.

The Oxon Hill High School senior celebrated his 1,000th point as a player seconds before halftime after scoring on a pullup jumper. Head Coach Lewis Howard called a timeout to present Polite an honorary basketball. 

In a gesture much like his last name, Polite thanked his coach and had an outstanding third quarter performance: scoring 14 points in three minutes and ending the period with 16 points.

“It happens every game,” Polite said jokingly. “I feel all-around confident in my game. My teammates believe in me and keep feeding me the rock, playing through me and giving me more confidence on defense and offense.”

The George Mason University commit capped off his milestone moment, scoring a game-high 30 points as Oxon Hill High School pulled off a stunning 75-50 win over Eleanor Roosevelt on Wednesday night to win the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) High School Boys Basketball Championship.

Polite’s show-stealing performance did more than lead the Clippers to an impressive win before the Maryland state playoffs start. Oxon Hill became the first 3A/2A/1A a boys county championship since Gwynn Park won in 2012. 

Howard credits the growing level of competition around the area as a whole that allows other schools to compete with 4A powers like Roosevelt.

Oxon Hill jumped to an early eight-point lead after Polite’s dunk capped off 10-2 run. Despite Roosevelt finishing the first half with an edge in steals (6-2) and the turnover battle, the Clippers continued to agitate guards Quinton Mincey and Joemel McNair into making rushed shots that missed. The latter finished the first half, only scoring two points while Mincey was limited to two points in the second half.

“We did everything in the scouting report,” senior guard Michael Sumner said. “Box out, contain, doing what we need to do, and limit turnovers.”

Meanwhile, Polite took over in the second half, first nailing a 3-pointer to start his run. Following a two-minute break without scoring, the senior scored nine consecutive points. His effectiveness in shooting the ball caused some of his teammates to continue to feed him the ball more often, Sumner said. 

Oxon Hill ended the quarter on a 15-3 run with a nearly insurmountable 22-point lead.

“Nothing surprises me,” Howard said. “It literally doesn’t. I told him that we expect him to play at this level. He cannot just do it once because then it becomes an anomaly. He has been consistent for us for the past three years, and he has gotten better. Each level of the game, he has gotten better, and he continues to grow.”

Roosevelt, who recently lost to Potomac (another 3A/2A/1A school) on Feb. 14, was fueled by a late 12-4 run early in the fourth quarter to make a comeback. However, senior Malik Holland knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to in the fourth quarter to seal the historic win.

“This was amazing, and we proved a lot of people wrong tonight,” Polite said. “We executed the gameplan, and we came out with the win.”

Oxon Hill will start their playoff journey through the competitive 3A South region hosting Huntingtown at 7 p.m. on Friday night. Roosevelt will have a first-round bye in the 4A region and face the winning of Charles H. Flowers vs. Suitland on a later date.

Harris sisters lead Lady Jaguars over Oxon Hill 

Senior Kaniyah Harris scored a game-high 17 points. In comparison, her younger sister Kristian added 16 points as Charles H. Flowers High School earned a 57-42 victory over Oxon Hill in the Girls Basketball County Championship game earlier in the day.

After a slow start in the opening quarter, including junior center Sydnei Harmon’s early foul troubles, the Lady Jaguars found their rhythm offensively. 

While all of her seven first-half points came via free throws, Kaniyah Harris created multiple plays, including an assist in Taniyah Hogg’s late 3-pointer before halftime, to lead Flowers on a 13-2 run.

Oxon Hill did not back away as forward Aniya Wilson continued to slash into the paint for multiple layup attempts, finishing the game with a team-high 13 points, while fellow senior Crystal Monteiro scored all of her 11 points in the second half. 

However, the Lady Clippers could not capitalize at the charity stripe as they only connected 9-of-20 of their free throws.

Meanwhile, Kristian Harris, a freshman, shined in the second half, scoring 14 points and sparked a 13-2 third-quarter run. Her elder sister watched with approval from the sidelines as Kristian Harris fired up a 3-pointer to extend their lead into the double digits.

“It is really special to me and hits me different,” Kaniyah Harris said. “I want her to be better than me and to go far; There has never been a sibling rivalry, and I just love when she shows out, freshman or not. She does what she needs to do.”

“Her as my big sister is an inspiration,” Kristian Harris said. “Hearing her say that makes me want to be better.”

The Lady Clippers attempted a late rally, narrowing their deficit to six points after going on an 8-2 run. However, Flowers ended any comeback attempts with six-straight points, capped off two layups by Harmon. 

Kaniyah Harris iced the game when she muscled through two defenders and her own teammate for a layup that turned into a three-point play with 42.3 seconds remaining.

“It feels great to put your name back in the paper and say this was not a fluke,” Kaniyah Harris said. “This was hard work, and it is what we put in; we just had to go out there and provide it again and show that this is what we do.”

While they won last year’s county championships, the team’s five seniors were opening celebrating with the championship plaque and taking as many photos as possible. 

According to Flowers head coach Roderick Hairston, his upperclassmen understand the importance of competing for a title and value every opportunity that comes their way.

“Not everybody gets to play in the county championship; They have played in two,” Hairston said. “The first two years, they didn’t get to play in any (championship game), so now, with every game, they understand that they have to take advantage of the opportunity that presences itself.”

With the win, Flowers becomes only the second school to repeat as county champions. It is also the Lady Jaguars’ 34th-straight victory against an in-state opponent. They received a first-round bye entering into the state playoffs and will take on the winner of Suitland-Bowie on March 2.

Despite the loss, Oxon Hill was recognized for winning their second 3A/2A/1A regular-season title in three years. They will host Huntingtown Friday at 6 p.m. in the first round of the state playoffs.

Twenty four Howard Indoor Track & Field members earn MEAC honors

By The Sports Pulse Staff

NORFOLK, Va. – The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) has recently announced its 2020 indoor track & field all-academic team.

That list mentioned 24 Bison who exemplified success both athletically and academically. The total mark set of student-athletes is tied with Delaware State University for the most by any league institution.

Among those recognized for academic excellence included: Mekhi Abbott (Monroe, N.J.); Essence Baker (South Brunswick, N.J.); Sydney Benson (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.); Monet Bowen (Jacksonville, Fla.); KiShaun Carter (Brick, N.J.); Kaylah Clark (Miami); Darian Clyburn (Louisville); Michael Codrington (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Ashton Daniel (Athens, Ga.); Rachel Edler (Stone Mountain, Ga.); Nia Gilliam (Brooklyn, N.Y.); Oluchi Ike (Upper Marlboro, Md.); Steven Imes IV (Los Angeles); Zachyre Lane (Durham, N.C.); Kennedy Lewis (Atlanta); Matthew Marchbanks (Chicago); Makenli Raspberry (Houston); Kylan Rice (Smyrna, Ga.); Michael Riddick (Downingtown, Pa.); Ameenah Saalih (Willingboro, N.J.); Ozioma Scott (Georgetown, Guyana); Gavin Williams (Dover, Del.); Sophia Williams (Westbrook, Maine) and Niah Woods (Cincinnati).

“I want to congratulate our track & field student-athletes, who maintained a 3.0 or better grade point average during the 2018-19 academic year,” said MEAC Commissioner Dennis E. Thomas. “The ultimate goal is to develop and graduate our student-athletes to be productive citizens in our society.”

The league honored 190 student-athletes from its 11 institutions, who achieved academic success during the 2018-19 academic year.

MEAC sophomore, junior and senior student-athletes with a 3.0 or better cumulative grade point average, as well as transfer student-athletes who have been in residence at the institution for at least one year, are eligible for All-Academic accolades.

On Feb. 27-29, the Bison will travel to Landover, Md., for the 2020 MEAC Indoor Championships, held at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex.

Admission for the MEAC Indoor Track and Field Championships is $10 Thursday (Feb. 27), $15 Friday (Feb. 28) and $20 Saturday (Feb. 29). Fans can purchase a three-day pass Thursday for $15, or a two-day pass Friday for $20. Tickets are available at the Prince George’s Sports & Learning Complex on the event dates.

A look back at the WCAC Girls Basketball Championship in Photos

Check out some photos from the 2020 WCAC Girls Basketball Championship held at Bender Arena in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 24, 2020 from The Sports Pulse Photographer Michael R. Smith.