Raider Review Sports
Teams on pause, but athletes keep training
Ever since Kennedy Nwabia (’15) came to America from Nigeria, 9,270 km away, he has been a basketball and soccer standout, setting and breaking records in his short time at North Cross.
“Coming to America, I thought I was going to be better at basketball,” Nwabia said, “because I played it more and only played soccer on the weekends.”
Nwabia had a little bit of time in America before North Cross. He attended an all-boys’ Catholic boarding school, Mount Michael Benedictine School in Nebraska for a month. He arrived at school, planning to only play basketball, but an injury to soccer standout Ezra Zigarwi brought Nwabia onto the pitch.
“I met with Mr. Brown one day, and he said I should try out for the team,” said Nwabia, who plays forward in soccer and basketball. “I went to practice the next day, and it went really well.”
He had no equipment to play in, so his soccer and basketball teammate Bennett Holley (‘15) let him use his old cleats and shin guards. Nwabia scored three goals in his first game for the Raiders.
Soccer is extremely competitive in Nigeria, along with boxing, basketball, running and dancing.
“I decided to play basketball because I saw it as a easy way out of the country,” Nwabia said. “I wanted to leave the country to get a better education, to get a chance to play at the next level and experience great competition.”
For Nwabia, getting a chance to accomplish his goals has been tough. College Counselor Julie Aavastmark has worked hard to get him qualified through the NCAA Clearing House.
“With international students it’s really hard because they have more than one transcript.” Aavatsmark said. “With a student like Kennedy it’s hard for compliance officers to be familiar with the grading scales from foreign countries.”
Adding to the difficulties is the difference in grading between countries, as everyone does not just get a smiley face A+ in Nigeria at any level of school.
“It’s hard for officers to know how it works in Nigeria because nobody gets an A,” Aavatsmark said.
Nwabia will not know until around July or August whether the compliance officers will clear him. On Jan. 6, Nwabia was accepted into Dayton University.
“All I can do is thank God for the blessing,” Nwabia said, “and pray that he continues to bless me.”
The Raiders swim team put on another great display of skill and power on Jan. 20.
During this swim meet this past week between the Raiders, Roanoke Catholic, Virginia Episcopal School, and Carlisle School, the Raiders swim team displayed well-rounded scoring once again. Led by the girls, the Raiders won all three contests. During the meet the Raiders won most of the events or placed in the top two. The team is larger than past teams, which would be a reason to why both girls and boys teams have been so successful.
Maddie Robinson ('16) and Emma Cartledge ('18) both had dominant performances in this meet. The girls swim team won all three swim contest against VES, Roanoke Catholic, and Carlisle. Robinson placed first in both the 200-freestyle and the 100-freestyle with a time of 2:12.35 in the 200 and a time of 59.94 in the 100. The girls finished first among the other three teams and it improved on their outstanding record of 11 wins and three losses. The girls’ team this year has been successful in all of their meets even having a good showing in the All-Timesland swim meet.
As for the boys, they won two out of the three swim contest against VES, Roanoke Catholic, and Carlisle. Joseph Cartledge ('16) and Andrew Lorens ('19) finished with solid performances. Cartledge placed first in the 100 butterfly and second in the 100 breaststroke, which Cartledge says is his "worst" swimming stroke. Lorens placed first in the 200 individual medley and placed first in the 100 backstroke. Improving on the team’s overall record of 5-8-1 with great showings from other boy swimmers.
"Our boys team is full of good swimmers who work hard and compete well," said Joseph Cartledge who finished second at All-Timesland swim meet in two events. "We are very capable of competing against other great teams."
Head Coach Greg Lake always tries to put the swimmers in the best position to succeed at all times. This sometimes involves having swimmers swimming in events they do not feel comfortable with.
"Coach, even though we may not agree sometimes, always puts us in the place where he thinks we can succeed," said Joseph Cartledge. "He puts us in events we don't even think we're capable of doing."
The 13-2 varsity basketball team has several crucial games coming up as they try to rebound from their second loss of the season.
The Raiders fell to the rival Carlisle Chiefs on January 19 in Martinsville. That loss brought an end to an impressive 10 game winning streak dating back to December 12. The streak was largely orchestrated by standout players Bennett Holley ('15) and Keith Oddo ('15). Holley has averaged 13.4 points per game for the year as well as 7.7 rebounds, while Oddo has put up 14.2 points and 4.5 assists.
The varsity's schedule includes New Covenant on February 3, Covenant on February 5, and Radford on February 7. Radford will be an especially tough game. The Bobcats are undefeated on the season with a record of 14-0. According to maxpreps.com, the scoring average per game of the two teams is almost equal, with 63.3 for the Raiders and 63.1 for the Bobcats.
After facing Radford, the Raiders play again the following Monday against the Bulldogs of Liberty Christian (LCA), the team that dealt them their first defeat of the year. The players will be looking for revenge and momentum as they enter their final few games of the regular season.
The varsity has a 13-2 (8-2 BRC) record as they enter the home stretch of the season.
"We feel pretty confident," Holley said. "We were on a winning streak until we lost to Carlisle, and we lost to LCA in overtime."
Liberty Christian has been one of the toughest opponents the varsity has faced in recent years. As well as downing the Raiders 64-60 in overtime this season, the Bulldogs have topped the Raiders 10 straight times in the last nine years, though five of those games were decided by less than five points.
"It'd be awesome," Holley said (about defeating LCA). "I've never beaten them in my career at North Cross. If we can get the win, it's a big win for us."
After the bout with Liberty Christian, the varsity squares off against Blue Ridge.
Coach Ed Green thinks Blue Ridge will be a tough test.
"They are loaded with talent," Green said about the Barons.
Green thinks that the team’s upcoming schedule will define its season.
"Definitely those games will prepare us," Green said. "If we're going to be great, we've got to beat those teams."
Keith Oddo (’15), a star guard on the Raiders basketball team, does not play just to make friends, as he maintains a high level of intensity on the court at all times.
“Off the court I like him; he is funny,” said Jordan Lowery (’16), who has played with Oddo in the backcourt for three years. “On the court he is a totally different guy, but he should be that way because he is one of our better players. He takes control.”
Head Coach Ed Green, who has coached Oddo for two years, sees Oddo, as the old saying goes, leaving it all on the court on a consistent basis.
“Keith is an emotional player,” he said. “He comes to play every day and when he plays in the basketball game he plays 100 percent both offensively and defensively. It is a pleasure watching how he plays and how hard he plays.”
Oddo attributes his approach to a mix of adrenaline and a burning desire to win.
“When you get between the lines, a whole different person comes out,” he said. “It is more of a competitive edge and I just like to win so that is the main difference between me on and off the court.”
Oddo’s intensity bleeds into practice, where he and Green, who brings an equal level of energy to both practices and games, constantly chirp at one another. To an uninformed observer the scene may look like tense, but Green sees it as a normal relationship between him and one of his star players.
“I push Keith very hard,” he said. “He knows what I am going to do and he expects me to push him. It’s not personal; it’s never personal. I’m just trying to have him maximize his skills as a player.”
Oddo appreciates the efforts of both Green and his assistant coach Gerald Holmes.
“Coach Green and Coach Holmes have done a great job and both of them are very well qualified as coaches,” he said. “They have been a main part of our success this season.”
Oddo has improved in each of his four years as what Green calls a “combo guard,” meaning that he can play both point guard and shooting guard. He has bumped up his points per game each season of his career and has reached a personal high of 14.0 this year. Oddo attributes a good amount of this improvement to being pushed by tough competition.
“Playing against really good competition in the offseason has really helped me improve,” he said. “Playing against Thon Maker and playing against five top 100 players this summer has helped. Playing against that level of competition along with me getting stronger and physically developing has been really helpful.”
The most noticeable improvement in Oddo’s game this year has been an increase in his shooting percentage, as he is shooting 47 percent from the field this year compared to 40 percent for his career. Oddo sees a simple explanation to this statistical increase in efficiency.
“For the past three years I have been primarily a three-point shooter,” he said. “This year I have been working hard on my ball handling which makes getting to the rim a lot easier. The closer to the basket you shoot the higher percentage of them you are going to make and that is definitely the case with me.”
Oddo’s assertion is clearly backed up by the statistics, as his two-point field goal percentage is up to 54 percent, 12 points above his career average. His three point percentage is down to 34 percent, 5 percent below his career average, but he has already made 49 two point shots in 14 games, only five less than his total of 54 in 22 games last year.
While Oddo’s game is well rounded, averaging over 10 points, three assists, three rebounds and a steal per game in his four-year career, Lowery sees two clear strengths that have resonated for Oddo’s entire career.
“Keith’s strengths are shooting and passing,” Lowery said. “Keith has stayed pretty much the same. He could always shoot and he could always pass and he still can.”
Lowery and Oddo have made a dynamic duo over the last three years, sharing the point guard position while working together on the court. Oddo likes having Lowery at his side on the court.
“To start the game I play off the wing,” he said. “Jordan is a really good ball handler. It is really hard to press us because together we complement each other really well. When Jordan goes out of the game I go over to point guard. Next year I will definitely have to run point guard because of the size difference in college.”
As a man who complied a 260-83 overall record and went to the NCAA Tournament in eight of his 12 years as a coach at Roanoke College, Green knows what it takes to succeed as a basketball player in college. When Oddo leaves Willis Hall to attend the University of Richmond as a recruited walk-on to the team, Green sees him facing challenges similar to most high school players transitioning to the college game.
“When you look at high school players and think about what they have to do collegiately almost every high school has to improve their defensive skills,” Green said. “They also have to work on their passing and be able to feed the post inside, making their teammates better players with their passing skills.”
By Tanner Smith
As William Shakespeare wrote in his famous play King Richard III, “Now is the winter of our discontent.”
The same could be applied to those wishing to see a varsity girls basketball team in 2014-2015, as the school decided to put the varsity program on a hiatus for this year. Athletic Director Eric Lawrence wishes that they could have fielded a team this year, but feels this is best for the future.
“We simply didn’t have enough upperclassmen to offer any kind of competitive team,” he said. “We want to make sure the girls have a positive experience so we thought it was better to back up and regroup and work on building the program.”
There are many reasons that people decide not to play sports, such as a heavy academic workload or injuries. Sarah Shaff (’15), who played varsity basketball since she was a freshman and averaged 5.4 rebounds per game last year, thinks the lack of interest is multidimensional.
“It is a mixture of both our record and people not wanting to play,” she said.“We never had a very good record and people just don’t want to play if their friends decide not to play.”
While there was not enough girls interested to field a team, Shaff is very sad to not be able to play her senior year, even if the team has only fielded a 28-42 record in her three years, including a 8-13 record last year.
“I was really sad when I heard that there wouldn’t be a team,” she said. “I was sad that I had played without even knowing that it was my last game.”
Katie Sayers, a 6-2 senior who averaged 1.5 blocks per game last year, had mixed feelings when she heard that there was not going to be a team.
“I was kind of upset because I do love playing basketball,” she said. “At the same time I was kind of relived because I am hurt and I would be upset to have to sit on the bench while watching everyone else play.”
Sayers is suffering through a cracked sesamoid bone under her toe, which she injured during this past soccer season. These injuries typically take 4-8 weeks to heal according to summitmedicalgroup.com, which would have knocked her out for a good amount of the season. Even though she would not have been able to play, Sayers says that basketball was not the only component to being on the team that she will miss.
“I will miss the team bonding and the bus rides because it is good to hang out with everyone and have a good time,” she said. “Even though we didn’t win a lot of games, it was fun to travel with everyone.”
While some may worry about the future of the program, Lawrence has confidence that the ship will be righted next year.
“We have some specific goals for that program this year,” he said. “However, we will bring (varsity) back next year.”
The goals for the program include a junior varsity team, which consists of a mix of seven middle school students and three upper school students. Those upper school students are Enhkbileg Dendev (’17), Zhishan Yan (’17) and Madison Charles (’18). Dendev has had a very positive experience so far.
"Joining the JV basketball team has been great,” she said. “I’ve met some really amazing teammates and I am ecstatic to be on the team. So far the games and practices have been great and always have fun with the girls on the team.”
Shaff thinks the junior varsity team is the key to the revival of the program.
“They need to keep the interest of people coming up to the high school,” she said.
By Dre Colston
A born swimmer, Daniel Lorens joined the varsity swim team for a third year and provides veteran leadership.
Lorens has been swimming for around 12 years. He started swimming for the Marlins in eighth grade.
“My siblings started swimming for the Marlins when I was in seventh grade, and a year later, I decided to do it, too,” Lorens said. “Prior to that, I had swam for summer swim teams, which I really enjoyed. This also pushed me to start swimming year round.”
Lorens adds years of experience to this year’s team and feels that the squad has added quality by quantity.
“We have doubled the swimmers we had in the past,” said Lorens, “and the middle school team is huge now.”
This team is full of capable swimmers.
“I think the swim team will have a very successful season this year,” said Lorens. The team has a great amount of talent and is full of potential.
“Daniel brings a strong leadership presence in which he leads by example through his hard work,” fellow junior Joseph Cartledge said, “his attitude is always refreshing and motivating.”
Asst. coach Jon Sirko agrees.
“Daniel is a very versatile swimmer and shows great leadership by his work ethic,” Sirko said, “I look forward to seeing him progress during the season.
Coach Greg Lake has had much success in producing collegiate swimmers and pushing swimmers to their full potential.
“I would like to swim in college, whether it’s for the club team or the competitive team,” said Lorens. “I would like to swim at Virginia Tech.”
The swimming is not all competitive Lorens also enjoys the time he spends with the swim team and the relationships he has made.
“I really enjoy the swim meets although it might not always go my way,” the swimmer said. “It’s a great time to bond with your other teammates and get to know them even better.”
By Dre Colston and Emma Cartledge
Margo Winn, a dominant force on the girls swim team, qualified for the state meet in her first swims for the Raiders with a 59.49 in the 100-yard free and a 107.91 in the 100-yard backstroke.
Winn started swimming competitively at the age of 6 and stopped at 13.
“My older sister always swam, so I started,” she said. “Being the little sister I just felt like I should swim too. I’ve always loved being in the water.”
Winn stopped swimming because she felt like her old team took the “fun” out of swimming.
“My old team took swimming way too serious,” Winn said. “I mean swimming isn’t the most fun sport but I mean I just stopped enjoying swimming and we were always at each other’s throats.”
This team is more of a “family” according to Winn.
“I don’t regret quitting because I feel it was the right choice for me, but I miss it a lot,” the which stroke is her best said, “I was really close with the girls on the team and miss the atmosphere.”
“We all support each other and want each other to win,” Winn said, “its really nice having that support.”
Winn’s favorite stroke is the backstroke.
“I love competing in all the meets, I really like the competition in the sport,” Winn said, “especially with this year’s team the meets are always fun.”
The girls swim team is currently undefeated, with a record of 7-0. As a critical part of this team, Winn has made three state cuts: 100 freestyle, 100 backstroke, and 200 individual medley.
“Coach Sirko is an amazing coach with a lot of expertise that he passes down to us,” Winn said. “He pushes us to be the best we can and really wants us to succeed.”
“Margo is an excellent swimmer and very versatile as well,” said Coach Jon Sirko, “in this past swim meet she showed how versatile she is by swimming the 500 freestyle and doing very well, I look forward to see how she does during the remainder of the season.” Winn has been a pivotal part of the girl’s success this year.
She loves the atmosphere of this year’s team.
“Margo is a great addition to the team,” Swim Team Captain Maddie Robinson said, “she’s really helped out our relay team and she really helps out with points.”
“I started again because I remembered why I loved it in the first place,” Winn said. “The high school team is about the swimming and doing the best we possibly can.”
By Nathan Seidel
Varsity basketball hit its stride lately, with three wins in a row following a tough 64-60 loss at Liberty Christian on Dec. 9.
The Raiders’ won again last night against the quick Tigers of Hargrave Military Academy. After a shaky start in which the team was down 13-12 at the end of the first quarter, North Cross pulled ahead by 20 by the third quarter. Shooting guard Keith Oddo, who recently committed to play at the University of Richmond, said the team picked up its intensity, but then saw the lead go away. Hargrave cut the lead to 46-40, when point guard Jordan Lowery fouled out with about three minutes left.
“It hurt us when Jordan got in foul trouble,” Oddo said.
With a six-man rotation, the Raiders seemed tired late in the game when The Tigers fought back with a constant press, forcing numerous turnovers, but to no avail. The Raiders hit their free throws down the stretch and managed to secure the W at the end, with a final score of 49-40.
“We hit our final shots,” coach Ed Green said, “and that definitely was a help.”
This win gives the Raiders a 5-1 record on the year, in prime position to do some damage as they enter the thick of their conference schedule.
Coach Green is optimistic about this team’s possibilities. He feels it has the talent and potential to reach great heights.
“I think our chances right now are as good as anybody’s,” Green said. “Thing is, we won [the conference] last year, so everybody in our league is out to knock us off.”
One reason for the team’s continued success is Peyton Bailey (‘16), a starter at power forward, who transferred from Dayspring Christian Academy. He is a big fan of our community and basketball program.
“The transition has been smooth,” Bailey said.
Bailey likes Coach Green’s style of play and his new teammates.
“I like to run,” he said about liking Coach Green’s system, “I like that a lot.”
The Raiders’ next game will be Saturday in a rivalry game versus the Celtics of Roanoke Catholic.
Forward Bennett Holley (‘15) is leading the Raiders in points per game (17.0) as well as 5.5 rebounds. Shooting guard Oddo also pours in 14.5 points per game and five assists per contest. In addition, Lowery contributes 3.3 steals and center Kennedy Nwabia (‘15) pulls in 9.8 rebounds every game.
“It’s a team game,” Nwabia said. “Five guys pass the ball around. We move the ball a lot. Everyone does their part cleaning the boards and scoring, which makes our teamwork effective.”
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