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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

Barons to Wildcats: Nickelson, Rucker help vanquish opponents

Senior+guard+Isaiah+Nickelson+%28left%29+sets+up+the+Wildcats+offense+against+Northwest+on+Friday%2C+Jan.+26.+Nickelson+scored+a+clutch+basket+in+overtime+to+take+a+one+point+lead+while+senior+guard+Tyrese+Rucker+%28right%29+grabbed+a+rebound+on+the+following+Jaguars+possession+before+making+an+assist+to+seal+the+game.
Courtesy Jesse Nickelson
Senior guard Isaiah Nickelson (left) sets up the Wildcats offense against Northwest on Friday, Jan. 26. Nickelson scored a clutch basket in overtime to take a one point lead while senior guard Tyrese Rucker (right) grabbed a rebound on the following Jaguars possession before making an assist to seal the game.

With under a minute left in overtime, the Wildcats were down two points to the Northwest Jaguars and desperately needed a score to bring their record above .500. The Wildcats had already made one comeback to tie the game in regulation, and with the game on the line yet again, the Wildcats knew exactly who to turn to. The Cats set up a play hoping to give senior guard Isaiah Nickelson an opportunity to attack the basket. Nickelson used a screen set by senior forward Ian Hochman before swiftly splitting through two defenders to tie the game and draw a foul in the process. He calmly sank the free throw, capping off the three-point play and giving the Wildcats a lead. Seconds later, senior guard Tyrese Rucker grabbed a contested rebound before making a half-court bounce pass to Hochman, who put the game out of reach with another three-point play.

Entering the 2023-2024 school year, Nickelson and Rucker transferred to WJ. The two had played together at rival B-CC for two years and were looking for a fresh start.

Rucker and Nickelson are not only basketball teammates, but also best friends. Their chemistry on the court has been a force to be reckoned with this season, as the Cats are currently 7-7 with a signature win over the defending region champion Wootton Patriots.

Rucker has been a showstopper with game-sealing blocks and emphatic dunks putting an exclamation point on some of the Wildcats’ wins. He has been an impact player, especially on the defensive end of the court, often being subbed into the game for each defensive possession during crunch time.

Their chemistry was on full display during the victory against Northwest last Friday, Jan. 26 as Rucker and Nickelson successfully set defensive traps on the Jaguars, and Rucker assisted Nickelson, tying the game at 61 early in overtime.

Senior guards Isaiah Nickelson and Tyrese Rucker execute a trap defense against Northwest as they attempt to force a turnover. The Wildcats defeated the Jaguars 74-68 in overtime as they had 8-0 scoring runs in the last minute of both regulation and overtime. (Courtesy Jesse Nickelson)

“They have grown up playing together. They have a good feel for how to play with each other and anticipate what the other will do on the court,” head coach Kevin Parrish said.

After a fallout with Sean Tracy, the head coach at B-CC, Nickelson was looking for a positive change and has since found success with the Wildcats.

“There is more freedom within the team. Practice times at B-CC were crazy, so here it is way more flexible as a student-athlete,” Nickelson said.

Nickelson and Rucker have made a significant impact on and off the court, both having quickly built close relationships with their teammates.

“They bring a big aspect to the team; they both bring offense and defense. Tyrese does a good job bringing scoring to the team, and even off the court, we all get along very well,” senior captain Daniel Kenvo said.

Rucker and Nickelson returned to their former home in December as the Wildcats fell to the Barons 63-51. The homecoming was filled with mixed emotions as Rucker and Nickelson spent three years at the school.

“It was really all I was waiting for. I was happy to go back and play them again. I went to go see my favorite teacher before the game. Then we lost, which really sucked,” Rucker said.

Since the loss against the Barons, the Wildcats are 4-3 and have been averaging 65.0 points per game (ppg) offensively while allowing an average of 61.7 ppg on the defensive side.

Tonight at 5:30 p.m., Rucker, Nickelson and the Wildcats have the opportunity to avenge their early season loss and defeat the Barons for the first time since 2020. With the history between the schools and two of the Wildcats’ key players, the game is certain to have high tensions and have the student section at the edge of their seats.

 

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Joshua Singer, Print Editor-in-Chief
Joshua Singer is a junior and is ecstatic to be a Print Editor-in-Chief in his second full year on The Pitch. In his free time, Josh enjoys running, playing guitar and announcing sports.
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Senior Audrey Ring is so excited to be an Editor in Chief for the Pitch! In her free time she enjoys having out with friends and attending sporting events.
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