The success of DeMatha's basketball program may be unrivaled in the metropolitan area. Now, the Stags' five-game losing streak is possibly the worst stretch in the school's storied 56-year history.

DeMatha (8-5, 1-4 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) never lost three consecutive games in 46 seasons under legendary coach Morgan Wootten, who retired on Nov. 6 as the all-time winningest boys' or men's basketball coach in the country, with a record of 1,274-192 and 33 Catholic championships and 16 City Title game wins, including the past two.

DeMatha Director of Development Tom Ponton, who keeps track of the Stags' athletic history, said that prior to Wootten's arrival as coach in 1956, the school's yearbooks containing game-by-game results are incomplete, and could not definitively say when -- or if -- the Stags had lost five straight. The Hyattsville private school fielded its first team in 1947.

"I think we are still good enough to get it together and make a run at a championship," interim coach Mike Jones said. "We're having a rebuilding year, but that's not like what most teams consider a rebuilding year."

The Stags' slide may not be completely surprising considering Jones, a former DeMatha player who had been Wootten's assistant for the past five seasons, inherited a team that had its top three scorers graduate and has a roster featuring six sophomores.

Only senior forward Steve Danley and senior guard Germaine Green saw considerable playing time last season, but were overshadowed on a team that featured All-Met forward Travis Garrison (Maryland) and second-team All-Met guard Warren Williams (Dayton), who guided the Stags to their second straight conference and City Title titles last season.

Jones also pointed out his team, which began the season 8-0, has four members playing hurt: Green (knee contusion), sophomore guard Justin Castleberry (strained groin), junior guard Joe Palumbo (knee contusion) and senior guard Joe Hunter (sprained ankle).

"The injuries have played a part in what's happened, but when we've been completely healthy we're undefeated," said Jones, whose team has suffered three of its five losses by four points or fewer. "We played five good teams, and if those games are spread out, it might not have been so bad, but we had all five right in a row."

DeMatha, which finished last season 31-3 and ranked atop The Post's final poll for a record 22nd time, fell out of the rankings after it suffered a 57-38 loss to Gonzaga in a conference game on Saturday.

-- Jon Gallo

Steve Darley (31) and his DeMatha teammates have come up just a little short in five straight games.