“As we’ve been telling our team since Thanksgiving, there are a lot of kids who can’t even exercise right now,” said Bishop Walsh trainer Dan Prete. “And we’re going to play in an event like this, so we’re blessed and special and happy.”

The facility, which opened in 2018 and includes a soccer field, hockey rink and pool, will be home to top-notch high school hoops for the next two weeks, a mix of regional private schools like Bishop Walsh of Cumberland, Md. And global national powers like Montverde from Florida. The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference headliners, DeMatha and Paul VI, are two of the 12 nationally recognized programs.

Except for the media members and a few administrators, there were no viewers who saw Montverde roll over the Spartans 77-39. However, 29 of the event’s 37 games will be broadcast live on St. James’s website. The other eight will appear on ESPN platforms.

After offering virtual training opportunities in the spring, the complex took advantage of the relaxed restrictions on non-school athletics and gave high school athletes a place to play. Among other things, seven versus seven football leagues, AAU basketball tournaments and indoor football events were held in the facility.

“The sports customer. . . I said from the start, “We know this global pandemic is terrible, we understand the risks involved, but we want to train and we want to compete, so help us find a way to do it,” Kendrick said Ashton, co-founder of the St. James Group.

“So we had virtual training, we had training materials that we prepared, and we tried to stay engaged [in the spring]. What we understood from this engagement is that the people who were being restricted had huge appetites and that once we were able to do things there would be a real explosion of possibilities for us. “

This explosion occurred during the summer and fall as it spread across the St. James in high school sports circles. At a time when debates were raging about how safe or wise it was to exercise during a pandemic, the complex developed a reputation among athletes in the area.

“One of the reasons they have been the target lately is because of their approach to making sure the events they offer are safe,” said Monique Liddell, Maret’s girls’ basketball coach. “If you’ve been a team that has attended a series of events, not every event is created equal. Not every event has really thought through all of the security protocols. And St. James found that out. “

Before the Spartans and Eagles spoke, empty seats were cleared by a clerk wearing a shirt that read, “St. James Clean Team. “Everyone in the gym outside of the players on the pitch wore masks.

“It feels very different with the tests, the masks, staying in your room and other things,” said Montverde striker Caleb Houstan, the # 8 player in the 2021 class in the 247Sports composite rankings. “But they did a good job with the precautions. You feel safe. “

After the game, Prete said his team went to a nearby hotel where the players would take their online classes on Friday night. They had to be careful and maintain a team bubble as they headed back to St. James for the second of their five games on Saturday. Montverde would do the same, but there are six more games left.

“Part of you says, ‘These kids need to go out and play,’ but another part is worried,” said Prete. “It can be overwhelming, but at the end of the day we feel happy.”

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