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New rivalries heating up in DCIAA

(Published February 11, 2002)

By BRIAN BRADFORD

Staff Writer

The current structure of the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association’s league play has sparked a new rivalry in girls basketball.

A difference in philosophies between Woodson Senior High School coach Bob Headen and Dunbar coach Johnnie Walker has set the stage for a championship showdown.

"Everyone from the outside looking in is laughing at us," said Walker. "All of the other leagues in Maryland and Virginia are set up so that every school plays each other twice a year. We are still trying to hold on to some perception of an ‘east’ and ‘west’ division and listening to people like Bob Headen who say, ‘Well, that’s the way it’s always been.’"

Due to a drop off in participation, several schools that once fielded girls basketball teams have dropped their programs. This year Cardozo failed to find five girls interested in playing. This left nine D.C. public schools with girls basketball teams – four in the West and five teams in the East.

Walker advised the league to drop the idea of two divisions and have all nine teams play each other twice a year. Such a schedule would still allow teams to play six games outside of the DCIAA each year. (The league prohibits teams from playing more than 24 games per season, but tournaments count as one game)

When Walker’s suggestion wasn’t welcomed at a pre-season meeting of coaches, he cancelled all of his team’s non-division games.

"He told me he didn’t want to play because he didn’t want me to beat up on his girls," Headen said.

Headen took exception to Walker’s protest last year and refused to travel to Dunbar for this year’s Woodson/Dunbar matchup. Headen argues that it has been years since Dunbar’s girls made the trip across town to Woodson. He said he believes it is unfair that his team has to play on their turf in order to get a game.

"He only wants to play when he thinks he can win," Headen said.

Walker said he believes that is precisely how the rivalry began – when Headen cancelled a game scheduled to be played at Woodson in 1998.

"I had a good team that could have beaten Headen at Woodson, and so he cancelled the game," Walker said.

"He’s crazy. I don’t duck anybody," Headen retorted. "I lose games every year – out of town, against nationally ranked teams. You can’t build a program by ducking people. He just started playing teams like Bullis and Riverdale Baptist this year.

"He’s never won anything, so why would anyone duck him?" Headen said. "This is the first year he has had a good team and that’s why he’s talking so much."

No matter how the dispute began, it has set the stage for an intense showdown should both teams advance to this season’s DCIAA championships.

"Woodson might not get past Anacostia," Walker said.

To add to the buildup, Dunbar’s starting point guard is a senior who transferred from Woodson. Teyonka Hodge played with the Lady Warriors for two seasons before running with the Crimson Tide’s summer league team and then transferring to Dunbar last fall.

Hodge said she is sure that Dunbar can beat Woodson if it came down to it.

"They’re good, but they have no point guard and no big man," Hodge said.

Lashantel Wilson, who replaced Hodge as Woodson’s back court leader, refused to spar verbally with her former teammate when asked for comment.

"I let my game do the talking," she said.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator