Boys’ basketball: Maret beats Flint Hill for second straight MAC title

When the clock hit zero on the scoreboard at Georgetown Day on Sunday evening, it confirmed the No. 15 Maret Frogs as MAC champions, with a 58-53 victory over Flint Hill. Maret players exchanged hugs, smiled wide and walked expectantly toward their student section, unwilling to erupt in full-scale celebration just yet.

The team waited on the bench, then moved in front of the bleachers, looking around until the signal came. The P.A. announcer gave the okay for the Maret student section to meet the Frogs on the court, and the group merged into a postgame huddle normally shared only by players and coaches. Roars and shouts of players and fans organized into one chant — “team.” The Frogs’ second straight MAC title meant just as much to the Maret community and the team it has seen emerge over the past few seasons as the first had.

“This is a year-by-year thing. We don’t try to defend anything because no one can take one away,” said Coach Garrett O’Donnell, citing the strength of MAC teams like St. James, St. Andrew’s and Potomac School, which reloaded with transfers and new talent this season. “We invested in good kids — invested in time — we stuck with them, let them grow, let them develop, and this is the reward.”

After a back-and-forth first half, Flint Hill battled Maret (20-7) at every turn through the second. The Huskies threw themselves at what looked like sure Maret rebounds, turning them into jump balls. They hit crucial jumpers, finished tough shots inside despite a consistently clogged lane and hung in against the explosive Maret lineup, cutting the deficit to two in the fourth quarter.

The Frogs didn’t help themselves through the first three quarters, often settling for quick, deep threes or flashy inside attempts that handed rebounds and key possessions to Flint Hill (17-12).

“We were taking a few too many ‘me’ shots,” said O’Donnell, whose postgame interview was briefly interrupted when a pack of Maret students surrounded him to shake his hand and thank him for another title. “We told them to start taking ‘we’ shots, the kind of shots you make consistently in practice.”

That message hit home with Maret seniors Jalen Barnes, Steffen Davis and Drake Goddard, who propelled the Frogs through the last two championship seasons. The combined for nine of the Frogs’ final 15 points to hold off Flint Hill. Davis and Goddard hit 5 of 6 fourth-quarter free throws.

“Through a couple timeouts, we said we had to settle down and all play together,” said Davis, who finished with 11 points. “For a while there in the third quarter, we were all playing by ourselves. . . . We came together at the end and played as a unit. That’s what it came down to.”

Junior Austin Vereen, who was hurt during last season’s title run, bolstered the senior trio’s efforts and led the Frogs with 17 points, including making four straight free throws late in the final quarter. With the departure of Barnes, Davis and Goddard, Vereen will be Maret’s leading returning scorer as the team pursues a third straight title next season.

“Those guys have pioneered this whole thing,” Vereen said. “They’ve worked all four years. It means a lot to send them out on the right note.”

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