It’s early, but a few results have the county sitting up and taking notice: Northeast has a really good boys basketball team this winter.
The Eagles started the season with a 72-27 decimation of rival Chesapeake on December 6 and followed with wins over Chesapeake Science Point and Meade. On December 16, the Eagles improved to 4-0 with an 89-70 win over visiting Southern Maryland Christian Academy.
Against SMCA, senior point guard Jaylin Albury led all scorers with 25 points and 10 assists; Darrell Sheppard had a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds; and Stephen Haley had 10 points and 8 rebounds. Olamide Ajayi had 7 points and 6 rebounds, and Trent McNeill, Travis Smoot, Trenton Cully, Brendan Heptner, Dylan Johnson, Mason Kanipe, Kinyaun Presgraves and Richard Stowe III all played well in the victory.
The Eagles have been building for years under the direction of coach Roger O’Dea, who has had many of the players in summer camps and rec teams since middle school. The dividends are starting to pay this winter for the Eagles, who have a deep, athletic and talented roster full of players who are comfortable playing with each other.
“We have a brotherhood. The chemistry, it’s hard to teach, but we started this back around fifth and sixth grade,” said O’Dea. “So this has been a work in progress for a long time. All in all I think I have the best backcourt in the county in Jaylin Albury and Trent McNeill. You’ve really got the two best point guards, so I play two point guards and then a three-man or a two-man. So it’s a little bit different and it’s kind of neat being able to do that, and I had to change my offense around to be able to do that. …It’s hard to stop us man to man. Then we’ve got shooters, so we can drive and kick, or if you go zone against us, we can bust it up with Jordan Williams and Travis Smoot. Darrell Sheppard at the big, he’s really coming on, controlling what he can control, and he has been a bright spot this year.”
Against Chesapeake on December 6, the Eagles delighted their home crowd by steamrolling the Cougars. Albury led all scorers with 17 points, 7 assists, 5 steals and 8 rebounds. McNeill scored 13 points to go with 4 steals, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Sheppard had 8 points and 10 rebounds; Williams had 7 points and 4 steals; Smoot had 6 points and 6 rebounds; and Cully scored 6 points and had 8 rebounds.
The Eagles allowed only two points in the second half and shut the Cougars out in the third quarter while delivering a 20-0 run.
“It felt really good,” said McNeill of the rivalry win. “The crowd was very live, we just kept the pressure going, and it was a great way to open the season.”
The Eagles scored an impressive win over Meade on December 13. Northeast hadn’t beaten the Mustangs since the 2010-2011 season, and Meade has made two appearances in the 4A state championship game since, with a state title in 2015. None of that mattered on December 13 as the Eagles played a near perfect game in an 81-53 rout. McNeill led all scorers with 24 points, and he added 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. Smoot had a coming out party with his best varsity game, scoring 18 points and adding 7 rebounds. Sheppard had his first double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Albury had a double-double with 12 points and 12 assists.
Albury said the team has confidence at 4-0, but they’re taking every opponent seriously.
“We don’t want to look at anyone as easy,” he said. “We always come hard, rebound, push the ball, anything we can to get the W.”