Alvin Copeland wasn’t so sure Friday night would ever come.
The Northeast head girls basketball coach was there for every board laid down, every speaker hung from the ceiling and every layer of paint that was put on the walls of the Raiders’ rebuilt gym. He was also there for every setback, including a game that had to be postponed and another that was moved to another school.
“There were a lot of days where I didn’t think I’d be here by the time this gym was finished,” Copeland said. “But I’m very happy to have been here (Friday) when it reopened.”
Northeast christened the reconstructed gym with wins over Howard by both its boys and girls teams Friday. The girls dominated in a 63-23 win, while the boys started and finished strong in a 78-45 over the Huskies, who were playing their first inner-county rivalry game.
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But while the Raiders came away with victories on opening night, the new gym seemed to be the star.
A raised roof allowed for a second deck of bleachers above the court, while the first level of seating was raised higher than before. The new court had a fresh finish and was adorned with a Raiders mascot at the center, but it was Copeland’s name that gave the new gym its unique touch. Scrawled on both ends of the court was “Copeland’s Court.”
“I think Alvin Copeland is a legend and a Hall of Famer,” Northeast head boys coach Dartez Talbott said. “It is an honor to share the same floor with him. There was no doubt who we needed to name the court after.”
Said Copeland: “I was honored that my name was put on the court. ... Not many coaches get to coach on a floor with their name on it. It’s special.”
The scene Friday was a stark contrast to the dark, dimly lit and small gym Northeast played in last year. During one game, the bathrooms outside the gym flooding water onto the court, delaying a game.
“I think everybody was excited to play in a fresh new gym,” Copeland said. “It was a big difference for us from last year.”
It wasn’t a big difference, however, from the performance on the court.
Copeland’s girls never allowed Howard to get close after opening the game on a 17-0 run. Maria Bond led Northeast with 14 points, while Takia Johnson pitched in 12. Brittany Davison led Howard with 12 points.
“We have some talent, but we make a lot of mistakes,” said Copeland, who is in his 45th year leading the Raiderettes. “I’m don’t know if they’ll ever get what I’m trying to teach, but I’m still having a lot of fun.”
The Northeast boys joined their female counterparts with an energetic start in their first game in the new gym. The Raiders led 20-3 after the first quarter and outscored Howard 25-15 in the fourth quarter. The Huskies hung tough during the middle two quarters, losing just six points of ground in those quarters.
“We’d have to play a perfect game to beat a team as good as Northeast,” Howard head boys basketball coach Prelvis Paster said. “We can’t just play two good quarters. We need four, but I think that will come with more time on the floor.”