Wheatley High School of Houston is the nation's dean of highs basketball. Over the last 30 years, the clones of Nevada-Las Vegas have compiled a 931-105 won-lost record that includes 15 State AAAA (highest classification) championships.
"We are the most consistent winning team in the country," said Wheatley Coach Jackie Carr, who has coached the Texas team to five titles in the last 10 years. "This year we don't have a good team. We're only 10-6.
At least, that is the excuse Carr used after his highly regarded team was worn down by De Matha, 98-94, in five overtimes Saturday night.
"My All-America 6-foot-6 Roosevelt McGruder didn't play in addition to several other starters" (all injured), said Carr. "I thought De Matha was a good team but there are at least 10 teams in Houston that could beat them."
De Matha Coach Morgan Wootten broke up in laughter when he was told of Carr's comment. "If there are 10 teams in Houston that could beat us, I sure don't want to play them. And, Wootten added with a bit of pleasure, "I know for sure Wheatley isn't one of them."
Wheatley, which holds virtually every record in Texas, including going over 100 points 104 times, warmed up for its big confrontation with De Matha by beating Sulphur (La.), 116-66, in the first game of the doubleheader in Lake Charles, La., last weekend. De Matha beat host Boston, 94-73.
"He (Carr) told me something about his starters being out," said Wootten. "After watching him win by 50, I told him if he has four better players than those on the floor, they should be playing in colleges."
Wootten said the thrilling five-over-time game was rivaled only by the Stag victories over Power Memorial of New York with Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), 46-43, to snap a 71-game win string in 1965; a 22-point city title win over McKinley without All-America James Brown in 1968 and a come-from-behind win over Long Island Lutheran in 1969.
"We trailed Long Island by 23 with seven minutes to play and froze the ball for the final minute. We won 85-82," recalls Wootten. "This Wheatley win ranks fourth."
The De Matha win was even more remarkable because 6-6 center Percy White is still out with an injured leg and leading scorer 6-foot guard Derek Whittenburg suffered a broken toe in the second period of the game.
"I can say I was without two starters, too," said Wootten, laughing.
De Matha, getting excellent efforts from senior John Carroll (26 points), Lowe (16 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds) and little-used Bob Ferry, son of Bullet General Manager Bob Ferry, finally prevailed in the fifth overtime.
"They are the fastest team we've ever played but even they got tired near the end," said Wootten. "They sat back in a zone to catch their breath while we froze the ball. The crowd (5,000) treated both teams like they were the home team. It was a great game."
Carr said he would love to come to Washington and meet De Matha (6-0) again.
"Get us a date. Love to do it again," said Carr, whose team averages more than 100 shots a game.
Wootten said he might just be willing to meet Wheatley again, but in February when "my starters get well."
White, a 6-foot-6, 240-round senior, is expected to begin practice soon. Whittenburg will be out three weeks.