After two straight successful seasons, Coach Carroll Holmes of Archbishop Carroll High is suffering through that dreaded and ofttimes frustrating rebuilding year.

The Lions, led by all-Met Derrick Lewis (Maryland), Mike Sampson (American) and Fred Cunningham, were 43-16 during Holmes' first two seasons, tying DeMatha for the Metro Conference championship last year. They returned only one starter, Kenneth Wills, and got off to an understandably rocky start.

Carroll lost its first six games, two by a basket, before defeating Maret. Under Holmes' patient teaching and hard work, Carroll has slowly begun to show progress. Five victories in their last nine games has Holmes almost smiling and thinking positively again heading into conference play.

Another relatively inexperienced Metro Conference team, St. John's, also is improving. The Cadets, who last month endured one of the worst losses in Joe Gallagher's near four decades of coaching (93-49 to Dobbins Tech of Philadelphia), have won six of their last eight going into Tuesday's game.

The Cadets proved to conference rivals they might have to be reckoned with soon after upsetting then fifth-ranked Gonzaga, 61-58, last week.

Gallagher can point to the recent play of guard Mo Jordan, forward Bobby Jones and inside folks Michael Tate and Charles Olayinka for the latest surge.

From September through November, the D.C. Interhigh League takes its lumps on the football field from nonleague competition. In the last half dozen years, the league has won less than 20 percent of its games against Maryland, Virginia and Catholic teams.

Basketball is another story. Going into this week, six of the 11 Interhigh teams were ranked in the top 20 and two others could make an appearance before long. The 11 schools are 45-18 against nonleague opponents.

Spingarn is 8-0 against nonleague competition, winning by an average of 27 points. The Green Wave finished the 1983-84 season by playing four games in four nights to win a holiday tournament in Florida.

Anacostia went unbeaten in nonleague play, winning seven games, including the Mount Vernon tournament for a second consecutive year.

A team on the rise is Eastern. Once an area power, the Ramblers haven't been able to play much better than .500 ball in recent years. But Coach Herman Cannon is starting to smile again. His players are quick, play good team defense and shoot well. With a break or two, Eastern could surprise some teams and challenge for the title by season's end.

Leading the new Ramblers is 6-7 Derrick Daniels, guards Curtis Daniels and Vincent Reed, and forwards Charles Hatton and Jeffrey Holloman. Heading into Tuesday's game against Cardozo, eighth-ranked Eastern was 3-0 in league play and 7-1 overall.

Spingarn's Sherman Douglass and Cardozo's Earl Moore, considered by many to be the best guards in the metropolitan area, are waging a contest for the area scoring leadership.

The 6-foot-1 Douglass opened this season with 48 points against DuVal High. The all-Met senior has scored 30 or more points four times and is averaging 27.7.

Unlike Douglass, Moore doesn't have the supporting cast at Cardozo (4-5). But that hasn't kept the slick, quicksilver 6-foot senior from four 30-point efforts, including back-to-back 31-point games.

Moore, a marvelous ballhandler and passer, has to create openings for himself much of the time and is averaging 27.8 points.