Even after going undefeated during the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference season and winning its first league title, top-ranked Paul VI Catholic felt it had something to prove after losing to second-ranked DeMatha in the championship of the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament on Saturday night.
“People started talking that we’re not that good,” senior guard Patrick Holloway said, aware that while the Panthers won three close games over DeMatha by a total of six points, they lost by 15 to the Stags on Saturday. “But we came back strong.”
Indeed, with leading scorer Stanford Robinson suspended for breaking unspecified school rules, the Panthers finished the best season in school history with one more victory.
Holloway and center Coleman Johnson scored 15 points each while guard Tilman Dunbar and forward Jamall Robinson added 12 points apiece in a 70-64 victory over seventh-ranked Coolidge in Tuesday’s Abe Pollin City Title Game.
It was one more championship in a season filled with big victories. Paul VI (35-3) previously won the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division 1 title with its second victory this season over ninth-ranked Episcopal.
Holloway (George Mason), Johnson (Fairfield) and Dunbar (Navy) will move on to college next year, but Stanford and Jamall Robinson will return, as will highly regarded freshman forward Marcus Derrickson and junior center Tim Higgins, who has committed to Cornell. The Panthers also got a glimpse of their future Tuesday, as freshman guard Kevin Dorsey came off the bench to score eight points in 13 minutes.
It was the latest championship for Coach Glenn Farello, who previously guided Eleanor Roosevelt to the Maryland 4A title in 2002.
“I think I’ve got the DMV covered,” Farello said. “This group is special.”
DeMatha (30-5), the only local team to beat Paul VI, finished No. 2 in The Post’s rankings, followed by Maryland 4A champion Magruder, which won its final 26 games after losing its season opener to DeMatha. Montrose Christian (20-2) was fourth, with Gonzaga (27-7) fifth.
Riverdale Baptist finishes No. 1 in the girls’ rankings for the fourth consecutive season, testament not only to the Crusaders’ ability but to their patience, Coach Diane Richardson said.
Some of the program’s seven seniors had to wait their turn behind older players in previous years but this season settled into prominent roles on a team that is 36-2 with two games remaining.
“It was their time to shine and they really matured,” Richardson said. “A lot of people talk about Riverdale Baptist and how we had so many [players], and some of the pundits say why go there when you could start on my team and not have to come off the bench.
“These kids came and waited their turn and worked hard in practice and pushed other kids and played against some of the best teams in the country.”
The independent Crusaders, who have trouble finding local opponents, played only two Washington-area teams that finished in the Top 20 — No. 2 H.D. Woodson and No. 13 Potomac (Va.). They played three teams currently in the USA Today Top 25, beating Mater Dei (Calif.) and Nazareth (N.Y.) and losing to top-ranked St. Mary’s (Ariz.) in the title game of the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona. The other loss was to St. Anthony’s (N.Y.).
Riverdale could meet H.D. Woodson again. Both teams are in the National High School Invitational set for March 30-31 at Georgetown Prep, but both would have to win or lose their opening games to face each other in the second round of the four-team event.
Riverdale will play Florida 6A champion Edgewater in the first round and H.D. Woodson will face Florida Class 8A champion Dr. Phillips High.
H.D. Woodson beat No. 3 Good Counsel on Tuesday night to win its third Abe Pollin City Title Game in five years. Good Counsel ended the season with two defeats, a loss to St. John’s in the final of the Bishop Walsh Invitational and then the City Title Game setback to the Warriors.