WCAC boys’ basketball tournament preview


Paul VI and O’Connell are two of the eight teams that will vie for the WCAC tournament crown this weekend (Richard A. Lipski/The Washington Post).

Several basketball champions will be crowned this weekend as the playoff season comes to a head (Click here for a full glimpse of the boys’ and girls’ brackets to date).

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No. 2 Bullis, winners of 17 consecutive IAC games dating back to 2012, will battle for its third straight conference tournament title.

No. 16 Maret, which clinched its second straight MAC regular-season title last week, looks to repeat as outright conference champs.

The DCIAA tournament will continue, highlighted by Saturday’s semifinal rubber match between No. 17 Theodore Roosevelt and two-time defending champ Coolidge.

And several Virginia teams will vie for their conference titles before entering region play next week.

With four Post Top 20 teams and an overflow of Division I talent taking to the court this weekend, many eyes and plenty of college coaches will be focused on the WCAC tournament. With McNamara and St. Mary’s Ryken prevailing in Thursday’s play-in games, here’s a glimpse at the four quarterfinal contests taking place on Saturday at Gallaudet:

#4 Paul VI vs. #5 Gonzaga (1 p.m.)
The preseason favorite Panthers enter the tournament having lost two of their last five games, while Gonzaga has gained steam and gotten healthy after a slow start, winning four of its last five contests. Still, the depth and talent of Paul VI, led by juniors Marcus Derrickson, Joshua Reaves and Kevin Dorsey, makes it a strong contender to win its second conference title in the last three years. A slow start doomed Gonzaga in both of its 20-point losses to Paul VI during the regular season, and with juniors Bryant Crawford and Sam Miller back healthy, the Eagles possess a bit more firepower. But their work will still be cut out for them, as the Panthers are capable of scoring in bunches and defend effectively with their wealth of versatile players.

#1 St. John’s vs. # 8 McNamara (2:45 p.m.)
After winning 24 straight games, the Cadets dropped Wednesday’s regular-season finale to red-hot DeMatha on the road. Though no team basks in defeat, the loss may prove as a good wake-up call for St. John’s as it enters the tournament gauntlet. With all five starters signed to play Division I basketball, the Cadets have given opponents fits with a small-ball approach that helps them spread the floor and push the tempo. On Saturday, their defensive focus will be on McNamara guard Jamir Moultrie. The freshman phenom is the WCAC’s second-leading scorer at 16.1 points per game and is one of three players averaging double figures for the Mustangs.

St. John's and DeMatha are the top two seeds in this weekend's WCAC tournament (Doug Kapustin/The Washington Post).
St. John’s and DeMatha are the top two seeds in this weekend’s WCAC tournament (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post).

#2 DeMatha vs. # 7 St. Mary’s Ryken (4:30 p.m.)
DeMatha enters as the conference’s hottest team, having knocked off No. 1 St. John’s, No. 4 O’Connell and No. 5 Paul VI in the past week. Sophomore forward Joe Hampton has played well of late, using his inside-outside ability. The Stags have also received a boost from freshman D.J. Harvey, who scored the game-winner against Paul VI and serves as a sound utility complement to senior guard Corey Henson. With Hampton and Florida State football recruit Brock Ruble clogging the paint, the Stags boast size that few other teams have, positioning them to make a run at their 40th overall WCAC crown. To get there, they must hold off an upstart Ryken team that lost by a combined nine points in its two regular-season meetings. The Knights have a strong core in point guard Jarin Hilson and versatile scorers Donte Etheridge and Deividas Zemgulis. The defense of Jamaal Satisfied will also be critical in slowing DeMatha’s many weapons.

#3 O’Connell vs. #6 Bishop Ireton (6:15 p.m.)
After shocking the area last year by becoming the first No. 8 seed to knock off a top seed, Bishop Ireton will look to perform a similar feat against an O’Connell team that features arguably the area’s top player in Melo Trimble. The Maryland recruit has elevated his game this season, adding sound passing and rebounding ability to his already strong scoring prowess. The Knights have had four days to rest after enduring one of the area’s toughest schedules and will need every bit of it against upstart Bishop Ireton. The Cardinals were just a few plays away from upsetting each of the conference’s top seeds this season, and with Daniel Noe, Patrick Moseh and Jaime Senft forming a strong senior core, they remain a dangerous threat in the always-entertaining WCAC tournament.

NUMBER CRUNCH: 1
Point that separated Potomac (Va.) from Marshall in Thursday’s Virginia 5A North region indoor track meet. Click here to read about the Panthers’ narrow victory.

BREAKFAST LINKS
-Following a banner junior season, O’Connell senior Melo Trimble has pushed his game to new heights by polishing his point guard skills in preparation for his role with the Maryland Terrapins next season.

-Gwynn Park’s Tashina Cardwell scrapped her way to 18 points in the Yellow Jackets’ win against rival Largo during Thursday’s girls’ basketball action.

PHOTOS FROM LAST NIGHT

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

Virginia Conference 5 girls’ and boys’ basketball championships at Chantilly, 6 and 8 p.m.
Four traditional Concorde District teams will vie for the first Conference 5 title on Friday night. In the girls’ matchup, No. 14 Centreville will take on No. 19 Oakton while No. 13 Herndon battles Robinson in the boys’ tilt. Both games will be rubber matches after the teams split their two regular-season meetings.

Brandon Parker is a sports reporter for The Washington Post.
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Brandon Parker · February 20

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