The legacy of the Washington area's superior basketball talent continued to grow in recent weeks as metropolitan area boys and girls teams not only outclassed national competition, but also defeated top international teams.
Washington brought home gold medals in both boys and girls basketball at the 19th annual United States Youth Games held in Newark, N.J., and followed those performances last week by defeating the Canadian Province of Quebec junior 16-and-under teams in games at Dunbar High School.
The boys defeated Baltimore in the Youth Games championship, 54-50, and the girls -- after an early 51-29 loss to Columbia, S.C., in the double-elimination tournament -- defeated Newark in a cliffhanger, 55-53, in the final.
The basketball medals were two of 15 gold medals won by the Washington team at the games. It also won three silver and two bronze.
"Our team defense was great. In one game we blocked 15 shots against Birmingham," said Oscar Phillips, coach of the boys basketball team. "The kids did a good job; they hustled and everyone was amazed at our size."
Phillips had 6-foot-9 Jerrod Mustaf, a sophomore at DeMatha, playing pivot. Mustaf, who played as a ninth grader at DeMatha last year, and forward Cedric Lewis averaged about five blocked shots per game during the tournament. Phillips also received outstanding play from Henry Hall, Kelly Miller, Kurt Smith and Michael Vincent.
"Michael outplayed everybody at the small forward postion. Henry was our best shooter and Kurt picked up the tempo for us," said Phillips.
"We were dominating while we were there. We had confidence in our big men and we all played together as a team," said Hall, who played for Parkdale during the year.
The girls basketball team overcame the difficult task of playing (and winning) four games in one day as it fought its way back through the losers' bracket.
"It was a 9 o'clock (morning) game and everybody was just down," explained Bertha Bell, girls coach, about the loss.
The girls defeated Newark, which was unbeaten entering the final round, twice to win the gold. Washington led all the way in the championship game.
"They had a lot of stamina, they were physically fit and they had a lot of determination," said Bell about her squad. "They played a good defensive game and I had a very good point guard (Carole Smith)."
"It was a good experience and we had a chance to meet people," said Zhoowan Jackson, starting forward.
The boys and girls basketball team got their first taste of international competition when they defeated the Quebec junior teams, which are touring the East Coast. The boys routed Quebec, 88-58, and the girls edged their opponents, 66-60.
The boys held Quebec to 10 points in the third quarter and unleashed a devastating fast break to lead, 64-39, after the quarter. They held a comanding 72-46 lead with 5:21 to play.
"They are very good on the fast break and are a very good transition team. They have a good front line," said Allan Cox, a guard on the Quebec team, who attends Westmound High, the No. 1 team in Montreal.
The girls had to add some players because the Youth Games team was for athletes 15 and under. One of the players they added was center Karen Wilkins, a reserve for H.D. Woodson. Wilkins scored a basket to put the Washington squad ahead to stay, 21-20, with 3:49 in the first quarter. It held a 53-35 lead with 7:17 remaining before Quebec cut the lead.
"This is the best team in the area by far," said Hubert Lacroix, coach of the Quebec girls. "I was very impressive by their one-on-one skills."
Everyone who witnessed the track and field championships at the Youth Games came away talking about Lushia Taliaferro.
Taliaferro, a junior-to-be at H.D. Woodson, won both the 800 (1:55.0) and the 1,500 (4.11.0) in a rout. He won each race by 40 meters and set meet records in both.
Washington lost the team title to Birmingham, Ala., by only 10 points (122 to 112). In the boys and girls events, Washington didn't enter participants in four events.
"If we had participants in those eight events, we could have won the meet," said Coach Joe Walker. "The kids did an excellent job."
The girls finished fifth in the team standings.
Other local winners besides Taliaferro were Howard Smith (boys 14-15 long jump with a best of 21 feet 1 inch); Kevin Wyley (boys 14-15 400 meters in 49.1 seconds); the boys 14-15 800-meter medley relay team in 1:35.0, and Allison Lamar (girls 12-13 long jump at 17-1).
"The kids say that when they go to Birmingham next year (for the 1986 Youth Games), they are going to win the title. Birmingham (three-time winner) had it long enough," said Walker.
Sisters Maria and Patti Restrepo both lost in the finals of the Youth Games tennis. Both Maria, 13, and Patti, 11, were two years younger than their opponents.
Patti, with partner Paul Maroon, also lost in the finals of the age 12-13 mixed doubles to Arthur Bucaro and Ayana Goore of Newark.
The tennis competition was played under a double-elimination format. Maria won three straight matches in the age 14-15 category before facing Tanya Helm of Birmingham twice. Maria beat Helm in the semifinals (5-7, 6-4, 6-4), but lost to her in the final (7-6, 7-6).
"Maria should have beat her. The tieb reakers were 5-4, 5-4 in the finals," said her coach, Tony Contee.
Patti lost to Roma Stinson of Birmingham twice to earn the silver medal in the age 12-13 category. She lost, 6-3, 6-3, in the fourth round and in the final, 6-4, 6-4. She beat Rachael Sepeda of New York, 6-1, 6-0, to reach the finals.
Maroon and Richard Harsanyi received medals for their fifth-place showing in the boys doubles.
Maroon and Maria lost to Shaun Starks and Cayce Cummings, 6-3, 6-1, in the third round of the age 14-15 mixed doubles.
"As a rule, they did pretty well for their ages. We will have Anjanette McIlwain (D.C.'s first gold medal winner) back next year. She didn't participate this year due to a previous commitment," said Contee.
Veteran Gretchen Ritter and newcomer Stacey Krejci won three gold medals in the swimming competition. Ritter won the girls 14-15 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and the 200-yard intermediate medley. Krejci won the girls 12-13 50-yard freestyle, 100-yard freestyle and 100-yard intermediate medley. The girls finished third overall and the boys fifth.
"They did a really good job," said Coach Roy Fagin. "The boys team has promise. We are grooming these people."
Jonathan Jackson, Terri Dukes and Nicky Wallace won gold medals in the bowling competition.