Our favorite photos from the Spring Sports Season

Baseball: Photos by Cory Royster/The Sports Pulse

The Coronavirus pandemic has swept the nation and has taken away sports altogether for us to enjoy.

However, we wanted to showcase the work of our award-winning photographers. Each week we will have them select their Top 10 favorite photos from each sport throughout the spring sports season.

We will run these galleries until every sport that we cover is represented to get you closer to the action until life returns to normal.

Wizards stars Bonga and Smith give back to DCPS community

By The Sports Pulse Staff

WASHINGTON – Washington Wizards players Isaac Bonga and Ish Smith have partnered with the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) to assist families that are part of the DCPS community.

Smith made a personal financial donation that assisted a DCPS program to support basic needs in the Anacostia, Ballou, Kelly Miller and Kramer school communities.  

His personal donation will provide 120 families who were not able to leave their home with critical personal items such as laundry detergent, dish soap, cleaning supplies, diapers and feminine products. He will also provide 100 hygiene kits each week, for a total of three weeks, to Kelly Miller Middle School and Ballou High School families when they come to pick up meals.

After a time of reflection, McNamara brings back Keithline as boys basketball coach

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by: Erica Calhoun

HYATTSVILLE – As the 2019-2020 basketball season was in full swing, Martin “Marty” Keithline had a moment of reflection. 

After leaving his position as the head coach of the Bishop McNamara High School boys basketball team, he stayed in touch with his love of sports through his position as the school’s director of athletic operations.

When his father, a fellow coach in his own regard, died in January, it was the first time Keithline said he thought of returning to coaching basketball in any capacity. Three months later, as the position he once held was reopened, Keithline jumped at the chance at returning to the sport he loved.

“I had been going straight since 1996 until 2018 as a head coach,” Keithline said. “So I never had time just to sit back and reflect. And those two years gave me a chance to reflect on what is important in life. Coaching young men in the sport of basketball is important to me, and that was something important to him as well. That loss really affected me. I wanted to get back to coaching basketball.”

McNamara welcomed the return of Keithline, formally announcing his return to the sidelines as the Mustangs’ new head boys basketball coach on May 6. He will continue as the school’s director of athletic operations while coaching, school officials said.

“Coach Keithline’s effectiveness at engaging our student-athletes in both the technical skill development required on the court and their academic investment in the classroom is a huge win for our boys’ basketball program,” Incoming President/CEO John Barnhardt said. “I could not be more excited to see how his program will influence our school community and the larger impact they will have in the WCAC.”

While he is happy to return to the role, Keithline said he has no time to cherish the moment. Following the announcement, he contacted all the returning players and their families to inform them of the news and start their offseason schedule. Until state and local leaders deem it safe, McNamara will not access to their athletic facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is going to be a lot of day-to-day relationship building, and weekly relationship building through Zoom calls and Google meets and text messages,” Keithline said. “All of those things will happen over the next couple of weeks, and I look forward to coaching all the young men.”

McNamara elected to let go of head coach Keith Veney Sr. after two seasons in charge and started an open coaching search. Veney was one of the first people Keithline met during his arrival to McNamara in 2001. The decision to let him go was “out of [my] hands, Keithline said. Despite his position at hte school, he faced the same interview process with the school president and principal as every applicant.

“From the viewpoint of being the director of athletic operations, I was put in a tough spot,” Keithline said. “But I live my life with integrity, and I am going to do what I can to make the administration happy and make sure these kids and parents feel that they are getting everything they need from the basketball and academics [and] education side of McNamara.”

It has been the tale of two different basketball programs at the Forestville-based school. Its girls’ basketball team under Head Coach Frank Oliver Jr. won its first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) girls basketball tournament since 2008 this past February. Meanwhile, the boys’ basketball team has yet to win the annual championship since 1995.

Under Veney, the Mustangs finished 39-23 in two seasons but did not surpass the quarterfinal rounds of the WCAC Boys Basketball Tournament. New Hope Academy in Landover Hills announced on May 4 that Veney would take over its boys basketball program. 

In Keithline’s first 15 years with McNamara, the Mustangs amassed 242 victories. His players were regularly recruited by “notable colleges and university,” according to Keithline’s school profile. That reputation, school officials say, will hopefully continue during his second stint.

“I look forward to the enthusiasm, dedication, and knowledge and understanding of the game he will bring to our boys’ basketball team,” Principal Dian Carter said. “He is anchored in our mission and will hold our student-athletes to high standards both on and off the court.”

Heading to next season, Keithline will be without graduating senior Kenny Womack, a two-sport athlete who will attempt to play both football and basketball at Sacred Heart University.

However, rising junior Favour Aire will look to be the Mustangs’ difference maker next season. The 6-foot-10, 210-pound center finished the season being named to the WCAC All-Conference First Team after his sophomore year. The four-star athlete has received offers from three schools and is listed as the state’s No. 2 junior recruit, according to 247Sports Composite.

Together with returning forward Terrance Butler, McNamara will look to progress further in both the WCAC and outside competitions. To accomplish this goal, Keithline said the basics will need to prioritize first under this time of quarantine, so basketball can be the focus as soon as they return to the gym.

“The team is very talented; I am excited for the young men in this program,” Keithline said. “It is all about the team, and individual success will come through team success. I look forward to working with all the young men in the program.”

MPSSAA awards remaining basketball schools official semifinalist titles

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

HYATTSVILLE – The Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association (MPSSAA) will officially recognize the remaining 16 boys and girls basketball teams that advanced to the final stages of the state finals as tournament semifinalists.

According to Executive Director R. Andrew Warner, the decision comes after the remaining rounds of each respective tournament, scheduled for March 12-14, was postponed and ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The MPSSAA firmly believes the schools and student-athletes, who were on the verge of participating in the state semifinals/finals, deserve appropriate recognition for their accomplishments within their respective school’s historic basketball season,” Warner said.

Each team and student-athlete will be named a state semifinalist in the state record book. Schools will receive a set of commemorative roster cards and an official Spalding-TF1000 Classic game ball.

“The MPSSAA would like to commend the coaches, student-athletes and school administrators for the manner in which they conducted themselves during these unprecedented events surrounding the initial postponement and ultimate cancellation of these contests,” Warner said.

In the boys’ brackets, No. 5 Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School were making their first Class 4A state semifinals appearance since 2017.

The Upper Marlboro-based school prepared to take on No. 1 Richard Montgomery, who was making its second consecutive appearance in the state semifinals. Another Montgomery County School, No. 2 Springbrook, prepared to face Parkville in the other Class 4A semifinal.

In the Class 2A semifinals, No. 4 Frederick Douglass was hoping to upset No. 1 Wicomico to make their first finals appearance since 2009. Fairmont Heights of Prince George’s County returned to the state semifinals for the first time since 2018 as the No. 7 seed in the Class 1A boys semifinals.

The Hornets were scheduled to face No. 3 Lake Clifton of Baltimore.

Meanwhile, on the girls’ side, No. 3 Winston Churchill prepared to take on the reigning champions No. 2 Charles H. Flowers in the Class 4A semifinals. In the Class 3A semifinals, No. 7 Rockville, who was making their first state semifinals appearance since 1987, would have faced No. 3 Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

Prince George’s County teams CMIT-North and Surrattsville were both on opposite sides of the Class 1A bracket and would have faced each other if they won their semifinal games.

MPSSAA calls off basketball finals, spring sports season

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

HYATTSVILLE – More than a month after calling off all high school athletic events throughout the state due to coronavirus known as COVID-19, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced on April 28 that it is canceling the remainder of its basketball state finals and its spring sports season and championships.

The decision comes after Maryland State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon announced canceling all athletic events during a state Board of Education meeting. MPSSAA released a statement following Salmon’s announcement that the decision was made after “careful review and consultation” between both parties.

“[MPSSAA] is officially announcing the cancellation of all MPSSAA events for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year,” the statement said. “This includes the remainder of the 2020 Boys and Girls Basketball State Championships and all spring sports, as well as spring State Championships.”

With the cancelation, MPSSAA is the last public school association to cancel its spring sports season in the metropolitan region. The Virginia High School League (VHSL) shut down all high school athlete competitions on March 23 as the state began its quarantine efforts.

Once Washington, D.C. announced its plans to continue at-home learning for the rest of the school year, both the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) and D.C. Public Schools Athletics (DCPS) office confirmed the cancelation of their spring seasons in mid-April.

Luckily for DCSAA, the championship games were held earlier this year before the coronavirus pandemic hit. Photo by Cory Royster/The Sports Pulse

The state was in the middle of its final weekend of the state basketball championships, scheduled to take place on March 12-14. With the continued spread of the coronavirus, only players, coaches and their immediate families were going to be allowed in the Xfinity Center in College Park and SECU Arena in Towson for their respective tournament games.

As the spread continued, officials elected to postpone the finals on March 12 and all athletics events indefinitely on March 27. Numerous coaches and student-athletes voiced their concerns on playing via social media, especially after the death of Northwestern High School boys basketball coach Terrence Burke due to COVID-19 on March 27.

“Do I want to play the game? Absolutely I want to play,” Dr. Henry Wise, Jr. High School boys basketball Head Coach Louis Wilson said. “I definitely want to have a chance to compete and have a chance for a state championship, but I know it more than basketball. This is a real-life situation.”

Dr. Henry A. Wise High School will no longer have a chance to finish postseason competition because of the MPSSAA tournament cancellation. Photo by Phillip/Peters/The Sports Pulse.

Spring sports affected by the decision include baseball, softball, lacrosse, track and field and tennis. Teams were in the middle of their preparations for the year once practices began on Feb. 29, preparing for the season to start on March 20. Their state final games were slated to begin on May 12 and finish on the 23.

“With this announcement, the MPSSAA wishes to extend its heartfelt gratitude and admiration to all of our member schools’ graduating seniors, underclassmen, coaches, administrators, and extracurricular athletic and activity sponsors who have dedicated countless hours to these programs,” MPSSAA said.

Moving forward, MPSSAA said it would work on ensuring the return of high school athletics by working under the guidelines in Gov. Larry Hogan’s “Maryland Strong Road Map to Recovery” plan, which was announced earlier in the day. 

The plan, created by the governor’s office with the help of scientists, business leaders, and public health experts, is a “safe, effective, and gradual approach” on how to reopen Maryland during the pandemic, Hogan said.

DCSAA joins Virginia, in canceling spring season

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – With cases of the coronavirus known as COVID-19 growing in the metropolitan region, the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) announced its decision to cancel this year’s spring sports season on April 17. 

Officials worked with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office before canceling its season and promised to continue promoting the city’s tips to stay healthy during the pandemic. Established in 2012, DCSAA is comprised of 49 of the city’s public, public charter and independent (private and parochial) high schools according to its website. 

“We are disappointed for those student-athletes who will not have the opportunity to compete and showcase their skills during their senior season,” DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said. “But we fully support the mayor’s decision and recognize the importance we collectively play in helping to flatten this curve and stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

Before the cancelation was confirmed, D.C. Public Schools announced its decision to continue online learning for the rest of the school year. During a presentation on April 17, Bowser confirmed that school buildings would remain closed, and the city’s stay-at-home order was extended until May 15.

Spring sports in the District include baseball, cheerleading, chess, outdoor track and field, softball, tennis and ultimate frisbee. Multiple teams began their campaigns and played 1-2 games before the shutdown in March. 

“People need to follow all the recommendations issued by the CDC, the District of Columbia Department of Health, and the mayor,” Ray said. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and school administrators are our number one priority.”

DCSAA’s decision comes after both Virginia High School League (VHSL) and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) canceled their spring seasons in March. Both leagues cited the need to support the state’s call to close all public and private schools. Spring sports in Virginia are baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis and outdoor track. 

District schools who participate in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) had their conference games paused after Commissioner Steve Colantuoni announced the suspension of all athletic activities on March 16. He added that officials were attempting to create “a modified schedule” for the spring season, a task made harder with both D.C. and Virginia closed. 

Big 33 Football Classic nixed 

Meanwhile, the Big 33 Football Classic showcase, an annual senior football all-star game featuring top players from Pennsylvania and Maryland, has been called. 

In a letter to coaches, participants, and fans on April 14, Executive Director Gary Cathell said the “uncertainty” caused by the spread of COVID-19 forced event officials to cancel all events related to the showcase, which would have taken place on Memorial Day on May 25. 

“It is about protecting our players and fans,” Team Maryland Director Scott Ripley said. “I am truly disappointed for the players selected to this year’s team. They will be missing out on something that they would never forget in a lifetime. We wish them total success in college this coming fall.”

Maryland is the only state in the region whose public and private school leagues have yet to announce its spring season plans. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA), which works with the state’s public schools, suspended all athletic activities on March 27, including the semifinal and final rounds of the boys and girls basketball tournament. 

As of April 18, MPSSAA has not announced its plans as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan extends distant learning for students until May 15. If any spring competitions were to take place after May 23, the association would need to pass an amendment to extend the athletic calendar, according to its handbook. 

Schools associated with The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) had its postponement extended on March 30. In a joint statement, both leagues said they would work together to formulate a plan to restart their seasons.  

“The leadership of the MIAA and IAAM remain hopeful that both leagues will be able to offer our student-athletes an opportunity to return to play at some point this season,” the statement said. “Both leagues will continue in their efforts to consider possible options dependent upon the re-opening of schools.”  

Northwestern High School Basketball Coach Burke dies from complications of COVID-19

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

HYATTSVILLE – Terrence Burke, head coach of the Northwestern High School boys basketball team, died on March 27 after battling with symptoms of the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Burke, who worked at Northwestern as a counselor and was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, died late Friday evening, according to a post by a family member.

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) CEO Monica Goldson confirmed Burke’s death early Saturday, stating that she extends her “deepest sympathies” to his family, friends and students whose lives he impacted through his work. Prince George’s Educators’ Association President Theresa Mitchell Dudley asked for prayers for his family in a Facebook post.

“I know this news is devastating and shocking to many in the Northwestern High School community and all who knew and loved him,” Goldson said. “Please know that my heart is breaking with yours, and I am praying for your strength and comfort during this time.”

Reactions following the news of Burke’s death were swift, with the attention pointed to his coaching career with the Wildcats. This past season, Northwestern finished with a 13-10 overall record. Northwestern girls basketball head coach Keith Devoe called it a “pleasure” working together as part of the Wildcat basketball community.

Guard Marquise Delahaye last spoke to Burke the day before schools closed due to the pandemic as they worked together to figure out his future. The senior said he will never forget that final conversation and how Burke always looked to help every player reach their goals.

“I’ll never forget how hard he was invested in [each of] his players and how he wanted to make us better men in life more than anything,” Delahaye said. “He was very hard on me, but I knew it was tough love. He saw something in me [and] he always constantly reminded me.” 

PGCPS will provide remote counseling to students and staff dealing with Burke’s death with the help of a support team of psychologists, professional school counselors, and pupil personnel worker, Goldson said. 

The school system plans to continue consulting with the county’s and state health department on preventative measures, reporting protocols and communication.

“We will make it through this time together,” Goldson said. “Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones.”

As of March 28, Prince George’s County has confirmed 196 cases of the coronavirus, the second most of the state. In total, Maryland has over 990 confirmed cases with Gov. Larry Hogan stating late Saturday evening that the number of people who have died has doubled, from five to 10, since March 27.

High School student-athletes and coaches reflect on coronavirus pandemic

By Harry Lichtman/The Sports Pulse Contributor

ROCKVILLE – When Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was diagnosed with COVID-19, a.k.a, coronavirus, on March 11, the NBA immediately suspended its season, which led to a ripple effect of suspensions among professional sports leagues and cancellations of college sports, including the NCAA basketball tournaments.

The coronavirus outbreak in our country also led to high school sports being postponed, with many student-athletes being affected.

One spring athlete whose season has been postponed is Leah Rubino, a senior at Winston Churchill High School who plays lacrosse and committed to playing at Butler University.

“I’m really disappointed that I’m not playing lacrosse right now,” said Rubino. “I was excited to start my senior season, but now I’m missing out on my last year of high school lacrosse.”

In addition to lax, Rubino was also on the Bulldogs’ girls basketball team, which made an incredible run in the playoffs and reached the state semifinals, only for that round to be postponed due to the pandemic.

“We worked extremely hard all season just to be stripped of our reward,” said Rubino. “We had a great season on and off the court, so it’s a shame that we didn’t get to end it properly.”

In the meantime, Rubino has been working out and practicing with her siblings at home. One of her siblings is former Churchill lacrosse player Jimmy Rubino, who graduated in 2018 and committed to playing at the Naval Academy.

“I have to try and stay in the best shape I can so that I can try to be competitive when I get to school,” said Rubino. “We also trained at the gym Healthy Ballers before it was closed as well.”

Another senior athlete who may not get to play for a while is Luke Trythall, who plays baseball at Poolesville High School.

“I feel that this delay is definitely necessary,” Trythall said. “But the players that are going to do well this season will find a way to keep working out and keep getting better. I think this season will separate the good players from the great players.”

Trythall has committed to playing baseball at UMBC, as he feels excited to return to the diamond.

“Being able to enjoy my senior season after committing is something I am looking forward to very much,” said Trythall.

Sherwood baseball head coach Sean Davis has led one of the best teams in the county, though his players are not happy with the current scenario.

“It’s more so a disappointment for the players,” Davis said. “When they first announced the postponements, you could feel the players were upset. They had a pretty good team. I’m not worried as much as them, though.”

Davis has four seniors who already committed to playing in college, such as Brady Andre (Wilson College), Joey Bowers (Salisbury), Ian Brady (Virginia Wesleyan College), and Luke Cheng (Illinois State).

“This should be one of the most exciting moments of their lives, and now they’re forced to sit at home,” said Davis. “I feel bad for the seniors. They haven’t canceled spring sports, but there’s a small glimmer of hope. Though Virginia canceled school.”

In the meantime, Davis is doing what everyone else in the nation has been advised to do.

“I’m just staying home,” said Davis. “I’m at home with my wife and kids, making sure they get their academics.”

Looking back at the top performances of the inaugural girls wrestling championships

By Lem Satterfield/The Sports Pulse Wrestling Writer

UPPER MARLBORO – Walt Whitman High School senior Stephanie Solloso was within 20 seconds of accomplishing her dream of winning a second consecutive girls wrestling title in three championship appearances – if not losing it.

Down by a point against senior Julia Fitzpatrick of James M. Bennett High School in the 127-pound finals of the inaugural Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s (MPSSAA) state championship tournament at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro on March 6-7, Solloso was competing two years after a runner-up finish in the first annual girls’ invitational folk-style event and following a 127-pound title-winning performance in last season.

“I was down by one point [11-10] within the last 20 seconds,” said Solloso of the females’ first officially sanctioned state championship, which was contested simultaneously alongside the boys.’ “I realized that I had to do something or else I was gonna lose.”

Solloso scored a buzzer-beating takedown for a dramatic 12-11 decision, having reached the finals on pins in the first and second periods.

“I got my two points for the takedown in the last second,” said Solloso, who ended the year with a 7-2 record. “This feels great and provides me with quite a memory to be able to be at and to win an official state tournament. I’ll be able to brag about this to my kids.”

Solloso was among 14 female title winners and among five from Montgomery County, the latter including Wootton High School sophomore Jasmine Gong (100), Richard Montgomery freshman Nadia Estrada (122), Montgomery Blair freshman Jackalyn Heath (144) and Watkins Mill junior Seda Tsami (152).

A third-place finisher in last year’s tournament, Tsami pinned twice before winning her title bout, 12-5, over Dulaney senior Nicole Wanga.

Heath pinned all three of her opponents, including Smithsburg High School freshman Allie Grosnickle at 4:51 of their final, and Gong required two falls, the last at the 2:36 mark of her title match against Quince Orchard High School junior Becca Soto.

Estrada decked senior Ogechi Nwughala at 2:47 of their championship bout after having won her two previous matches on tough decisions of 12-10 and 4-2.

Solloso’s older brothers wrestled for Whitman coach Derek Manon, with Anthony graduating in 2014, and Marcos, in 2016, after being a regional runner-up.

“Marcos had a motor that was unmatched,” said Vikings’ coach Derek Manon. “He won The Grapple At The Brook [at Springbrook High] as a senior.”

Marcos was mat-side for at states for his little sister, said Stephanie Solloso.

“My older brother Marcos was on the sidelines, coaching me, and recording my match. He’s always been there, and he’s made it clear on just how proud he is of me,” said Solloso, who pinned senior Brooke Markell of Baltimore County’s Kenwood High School in 2:38 of last year’s state championship match.

“My brothers were the only reason I started on the mats. Watching their matches when I was in seventh and eighth grade made me want to be out there wrestling the guys they were up against…I would get anxious and be stressed from just watching. But during my freshman year, I ended up going to the first practice, and I’ve loved it from the first day.”

Other champions were Bowie senior Krista Kappes (106), Fairmont Heights juniors Nina Small (112), Smithsburg freshman Jen Hood (117), Dulaney sophomore Sarah Sunday (132), Middletown senior Kalin Bower (138), Randallstown junior Jaylen Hyman (164), Western Tech sophomore Mame Thiam (180), Eleanor Roosevelt senior Arrey Mbutambe (200) and Great Mills freshman Jocelyn Cacek (225).

MPSSAA Basketball State Championships Update, play could resume on April 6

By The Sports Pulse

GREENBELT – The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) has provided the public with more information on the state championships plan of action moving forward until further notice. See below:

Effective immediately: 

  • All interscholastic athletic teams are required to cancel all team practices until schools are reopened which at the earliest will be March 30, 2020.  After schools reopen, interscholastic athletic teams may not practice until they are authorized by their respective local educational agency to resume practices.
  • All interscholastic athletic contests shall be cancelled through April 6, 2020. April 6, 2020, becomes the first available play date for scheduling consideration. All schedules after April 6, 2020, must meet the weekly limitations as detailed in the MPSSAA Handbook.
  • All interscholastic teams should reconsider contests after April 6, 2020  that may include more than 250 individuals.
  • All interscholastic athletic teams should reconsider any opponents after April 6, 2020 that may be out-of-state.
  • The MPSSAA State Basketball Championships remain postponed until further notice.  The MPSSAA will remain vigilant regarding interscholastic athletics and the health and safety of students and school communities.

The MPSSAA will continue work collaboratively with the MSDE and other relevant state agencies to determine the best route for interscholastic athletics to resume.  All schools should direct questions to their local educational agencies and be mindful this guidance may change at any given time.