We will talk about shooting just once here -- because two free throws so illustrate the lure of high-school basketball -- and then dribble into the important aspects of yesterday's city title game. So come to the foul line with Paul DeVito, who has botched a one-and-one several seconds earlier and now looks toward his De Matha coach, Morgan Wootten.
"He took his chewing gum out of his mouth," DeVito explained later. "He did that to relax me, like he did when I had a one-and-one against St. John's with 30 seconds left and us only up by two.
"On the sidelines that time he said: 'I'll give you my chewing gum if you make the shot.' Yes, I made the shots. And we won by four. So when I looked over this time he took the gum out again. We were just messing around."
Two swishes later, De Matha has a 10-point lead against Dunbar -- and the final 101 seconds are just messing-around time as the Stags become No. 1 in the area again for what seems like the 60 zillionth straight time under Wooten.
What's that? De Matha hasn't won for two years? Let Wootten explain that sin with a smile:
"We're 29-4 last year (but St. John's won the Metro title and boat McKinley in the city championship) and people are coming up to me and saying: 'Well, not a good year. You'll just have to suffer through it.'
"And these were good friends of mine."
This season Wootten has produced another unbeaten team, one quite possibly on the level of teams that featured such as Adrian Dantley and Kenny Carr, Hawkeye Whitney and Sid Catlett but that does not -- at the moment -- have a single player collegiate hustlers would term a "Franchise."
Yesterday De Matha missed enough shots to lose. In truth, if Dunbar had not missed so many one-and-one it well might have won. But the Stags, especially Sidney Lowe and Dutch Morley, made all the plays that never get into the box scores yet add up to victory.
Now and then De Matha would turn something called "1-2-2 trouble" loose against Dunbar. It is a full-court zone press that tries to keep the opposition from getting the ball in bounds.Trouble was the mildest word Dunbar had for it, because it resulted in eight turnovers.
Lowe either was forcing an error, stealing the ball outright or batting it out of bounds with a sort of belly flopper to the floor, degree of difficulty 2.6. And when Dunbar got the ball downcourt, Morley often was able to steal a pass near the basket.
So when the Stags' best players, or at least their probable first-team All-Met, Charles Branch, was as frustrated as a fellow could be around the basket and when another standout, Joe Washington, missed most of the second half with four fouls, they still won going away. Against the second-best team in the area.
De Matha has been judged the best high school team in the nation by one basketball paper --and none other than Time is considering giving its No. 1 blessing to the Stages. Nobody knows, of course, but Wootten was saying, "I don't think there's any doubt about who's No. 1 in our area."
Well, the Dunbar coach, Joe Dean Davidson, seems still in doubt, or at least of the opinion that a second-half technical foul that gave the Stags four points -- and the lead for good -- ought not to have been called.
"I stood up, in the emotion of a game, when we're rallying," Davidson said. "I was motioning to press -- and I got a technical. . . It takes a great effort to beat them, and when we had that effort we got that tech."
And when dunbar had its chances to pull ahead from the foul line managed to manufacture bricks. Dunbar was caught with 21 fouls, De Matha 18. Dunbar was caught with 21 from the freethrow line, De Matha 25 for 30.
"Corny as this sounds," Wootten siad, "these guys are the very essence of what a team is all about. They honestly don't care who scores. One guy gets all-Met and everybody cheers. The '65 team that beat (Lew) Alcindor had three All-Mets."
And Wootten was as quick to praise point guard Morley for his five assists and four defensive rebounds as he was for his hitting five of seven field-goal tries.
"I hit the ones with a hand in my face, but missed the wide-open shots," Morley said of his less-than-perfect performance. Next game, Morgan, pass the chewing-gum bit around.