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How 27 Hours Helped Ease 22 Years Of Frustration For D.C. Sports Fans

by David Elfin
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What a difference a day makes for D.C. sports fans. (credit: Dave Sandford/Rob Carr/Getty Images)

What a difference a day makes for D.C. sports fans. (credit: Dave Sandford/Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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We’re 10 days shy of 22 years since the Redskins became Washington’s last major pro sports team to deliver a title. We’re closing in on 12 years since Maryland brought local college fans their last major men’s trophy.

So D.C. hasn’t exactly been the cradle of championships recently, but in a little over 24 hours beginning a little after 7 Tuesday night and ending after 10 last night, our teams provided a week’s worth, maybe even a fortnight’s worth of drama.

As Jackie Gleason used to say, and away we go.

Smith Center was packed with loud and boisterous students from both sides for Tuesday’s Atlantic 10 Conference game between George Washington and Virginia Commonwealth. Both teams were fling pretty high, but the Colonials are the bunch of kids just starting to understand how good they can be.

When GW sophomore big man Kevin Larsen scored three baskets in the first five minutes, you sensed it was going to be a pretty good night for the home team. At halftime, the Colonials had outscored the Rams – a Final Four participant three seasons ago – 36-29, outshot them 57-37 percent and outrebounded them 22-13. VCU turned up coach Shaka Smart’s pressure defense the rest of the way, but GW’s lead never dipped below four in a 76-66 triumph as Mike Lonergan’s Colonials raised their record to 14-3, surpassing last year’s victory total.

About two miles away, the Capitals were going toe to toe with San Jose, taking one of the NHL’s top teams to the shootout before losing 2-1 in the virtual skills competition that they had owned until very recently.

Last night, Georgetown, minus massive center Josh Smith (academic issues) and swingman Jabil Trawick (broken jaw), improbably led 42-29 at halftime on the road against a tough Xavier team. The advantage ballooned to 17 points before coach John Thompson III’s crew began to falter. The Hoyas were clinging to a 67-64 edge with 6:14 remaining when they went stone cold. The Musketeers scored the final 13 points as Georgetown dropped to 11-5, 3-2 in the revamped Big East.

As the Hoyas were crashing, the reverse scenario was playing out in College Park. Maryland couldn’t hit an outside shot during the first half while visiting Notre Dame was on target. The Terps, coming off blowout losses at ACC foes Pittsburgh and Florida State, trailed 34-25 at halftime and were in danger of falling into a tailspin from which their NCAA hopes might never recover. But then sophomore point guard Seth Allen, who started his first game of the year after missing two months with a broken foot, took charge. As Notre Dame’s streaky shooters kept missing, Maryland kept coming. Allen’s three-point bomb gave the Terps a 39-36 lead and they never looked back en route to a satisfying 74-66 triumph that relieved some of the pressure on coach Mark Turgeon.

While the long-time local college titans were involved in struggles, the Wizards, who had lost four in a row at home, the last two by double digits, welcomed the two-time defending champion Miami Heat to Verizon Center. Washington couldn’t have been a ruder host. At the end of the first quarter, the roles had been totally reversed. Washington led by an incredible 43-18 having hit all of its three-pointers and not even committed a foul in its highest-scoring opening quarter in more than seven years, back when the Wizards were a playoff team. The margin, which reached 34 points during the second quarter, shrunk to eight in the fourth quarter before Washington pulled away to win 114-97. The Wizards (18-19) still trail the Heat by eight and a half games in the Southeast Division, but it was certainly a night to savor for coach Randy Wittman and Co.

That seemed it would be also be the case for owner Ted Leonsis’ other franchise as the Caps grabbed the lead three times in Pittsburgh. However, the Penguins, the best team in the Eastern Conference, scored twice in the final nine minutes to win 3-2, dealing yet another blow to Washington in the lopsided, long-standing rivalry.

While the Caps were trying to hang on against the Penguins, coach Paul Hewitt’s mediocre George Mason basketball team was on the verge of upsetting 19th-ranked Massachusetts. Coach Paul Hewitt’s Patriots led 86-81 with 41.3 seconds left but still managed to lose 88-87 to its A-10 rival at Patriot Center. Mason fell to 7-10, 2-6 in games decided by less than six points.

For good measure, American, Mason’s former Colonial Athletic Association traveling partner, soared to 5-0 in the Patriot League with a 65-63 victory at Lehigh. Navy improved to 2-3 in the Patriot by holding off Bucknell 62-61.

Not bad for a little over 24 hours in D.C. sports, huh?

David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011.

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