Joe Wootten, son of legendary DeMatha basketball coach Morgan Wootten, stood on the sideline of the brand new hardwood floor at O'Connell on Saturday, watching the boys varsity basketball team he has built from the ground up. The 27-year-old first-year head coach was pleased by what he saw.

Wootten's Knights put together a solid 32-minute performance and defeated St. John's/Prospect Hall, 83-57, to claim the O'Connell Tip-off Tournament title, one day after routing Emmanuel Christian in the tournament's opening round.

This past weekend's competition, however, was not as strong as what O'Connell will face in the tough Washington Catholic Athletic Conference this season, but all indications are that the Knights--who have several new recruits, including four transfers from DeMatha (brought in by Wootten)--will win their share. The Knights are talented enough to contend in the WCAC, Wootten said, but with seven juniors, two sophomores and one freshman, they are also young enough to struggle at times.

"It's too early to say that we are one of the teams to beat," Wootten said. "But I have to think that we've got a chance."

Wootten resigned from DeMatha last spring after serving three years as his father's assistant to take the head coaching position at O'Connell. He brought former DeMatha players Brandon Powers, Justin Gatling, Tim Folayan and Brett Herberger with him to O'Connell.

"It's been hectic so far," Wootten said, referring to the season's opening weeks. "But it's also been a lot of fun. I learned a lot from my dad, just being around him for 27 years. Now I'm putting that knowledge to good use." . . .

Game of the weekend in Virginia? How about the boys tilt at Hayfield between Lee and Hayfield. The season opener for both teams was a rematch of last year's Virginia AAA Northern Region semifinal, won by Lee. Friday night it went down to the final second. With Hayfield down, 57-56, and one second on the clock, Lee tipped an inbounds pass out of bounds to preserve the win. Hawks guard Mark Stafford led all scorers with 19 points; Lee was led by senior guard Mark Davis with 14.

McNamara Girls One Short

The meaning of student-athlete took on greater significance when McNamara (0-1) fell short of pulling off an upset over No. 7 Sidwell Friends at the Seton Keough basketball tournament in Baltimore on Saturday.

McNamara lost, 52-51, after being forced to play the final two minutes of the game with only four players on the floor after senior center Crystal Washington fouled out. McNamara had no one left on its bench because four of its players--including two starters--were forced to miss the game because they were taking the Scholastic Assessment Test.

"There was no question of what had priority over the game," said first-year McNamara coach Michael Bozeman. Sidwell Friends had two players who took the test, but both rejoined the team before the game. "The test has far greater ramifications than the first basketball game of the season."

Sidwell overcame a 35-21 halftime deficit. When Washington fouled out, McNamara was leading, 51-45, before Sidwell closed with a 7-0 run behind sophomore guard Jessica Holsey (32 points). . . .

Eastern girls coach Harry McAfee has often called junior forward Cassandra Williams a sleeper--the kind of player who can all of sudden sneak up on opponents and score in streaks. The 5-foot-6 Williams came alive Friday night when she scored 12 of Eastern's final 14 points in the last two minutes to lead the Ramblers to a 48-38 comeback victory against visiting Dunbar.

"I played my game," said Williams, who finished with 24 points. "We just worked our offense and found the open shots. We told ourselves at halftime that this was our game. That nobody could come into our house and take the game."