The catalysts behind No. 17 Paul VI’s late-season surge emerged from the home locker room after Monday night’s 49-46 upset of No. 1 DeMatha and admitted it likely would not have occurred without the struggles this group had already overcome.
The grit and cohesion the Panthers boys’ basketball team needed to dig out from a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit with four minutes to go were developed traits, built through humbling losses and plenty of angst over chemistry. But this latest gutsy effort also shined a light on what might be the Washington area’s most sought after starting five.
Senior Franklin Howard, a Syracuse commit, finished with 15 points, including consecutive baskets that tied the score at 44 and then gave Paul VI the lead for good with under two minutes to go. Junior V.J. King, an Ohio transplant armed with scholarship offers from some of the country’s top programs, had 10 of his 16 points during the comeback. Junior big man Corey Manigault, another promising recruit, also chipped in 15 points. And sophomore point guard Aaron Thompson never looked out of place running the show in a raucous environment.
“We’re starting to believe. That’s the biggest thing,” King said. “We’ve put a couple great wins together and we’re playing harder. We’re taking on the challenge. A lot of people wrote us off in the beginning of the season, but we’ve definitely picked it up for this championship run.”
The Panthers, ranked No. 1 by The Washington Post to start the season, have now scored wins over every WCAC contender but No. 10 Gonzaga over the past two weeks. Recruiters, meanwhile, are beginning to circle.
Manigault, for instance, is now up to 11 scholarship offers after Maryland and Wake Forest recently joined the mix along with Virginia Tech, VCU and Pittsburgh, among others. Thompson has already been offered by Penn State, Rice and Holy Cross and garnered interest from Maryland, Villanova and Syracuse.
“I just play like I don’t have any” scholarship offers, Manigault said. “Just push that to the side and worry about winning a championship.”
That’s harder for King, considered a five-star prospect by most recruiting services. He might be the most coveted player in the Washington area this winter and couldn’t even name all the schools pursuing him Monday, noting it had to be more than 20 at this point. Arizona, Kentucky, Georgetown, Indiana, UCLA, Syracuse, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Louisville are among those to offer King a scholarship, according to ESPN.
King transferred to Paul VI after coming to the Washington area this offseason from Akron, Ohio, where he played for St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, LeBron James’s alma mater. King credited moving to the WCAC for making him more aggressive, a trait that was on full display as he knifed through DeMatha’s defense in the fourth quarter Monday night in front of assistants from Georgetown and Connecticut.
“It’s getting a little crazy. It’s definitely picked up. I talk to a lot of coaches,” King said. “It’s just a humbling experience to see those type of coaches have an interest in me. Sometimes during the week, if it gets too hectic, I just got to turn the phone off and just set it down and chill the rest of the day. My coaches and my mother help me balance all the coaches out.”
Paul VI Coach Glenn Farrello assumed all along, even as the Panthers piled up 10 losses in their first 17 games, that this collection of talent would eventually figure out how to play together. He believes the recruiting interest and the team’s recent success go hand in hand.
“They’re getting a lot of attention. It’s well deserved,” he said. “What’s great about this group is they’re so hungry to win and that’s why so many college coaches do like them. They want to win. They’re competitors. They have a really good understanding that at the next level college coaches are looking for guys that can help them win.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 25
Points scored by guard Lindsey Pulliam as No. 18 Good Counsel beat No. 20 St. Mary’s Ryken, 73-65, on the road Monday to secure the No. 2 seed in the WCAC girls’ basketball tournament. The Falcons lost to St. Mary’s Ryken, 52-50, back on Feb. 6.
- Here’s The Post’s new boys’ basketball poll: Meade joins the top 10, while Paul VI, Coolidge and Magruder all join the fray.
- Here’s our latest girls’ basketball poll, which features the return of Madison and Annapolis Area Christian.
- In girls’ basketball, freshman Natalie Villaflor has been a revelation for No. 10 Loudoun County.
- Lake Braddock’s James Butler follows in big family footsteps on hardwood.
- The George Mason boys’ basketball team is looking for more after winning a record 23 games this regular season.
- The Bell girls’ basketball team is hoping for a rematch with regular season champion Anacostia in the DCIAA playoffs.
- McDonald’s all-American Taylor Murray went off and led the Annapolis Area Christian girls’ basketball team to the program’s first-ever IAAM-B championship over the weekend.
- The Osbourn boys’ basketball team is re-focused and surging into the postseason.
- Poolesville promoted assistant Dave Murray to be its next head football coach.
- On the wrestling mat, Broad Run and Marshall both had impressive showings at the Virginia 5A north region meet.
- Patuxent’s Hayley Jackson and Douglass’s Rico Gomez were among those that shined at Monday’s Maryland 1A/2A indoor track state championship meet in Landover
VIDEO OF THE DAY
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: SNOW DAY!
It appears all of tonight’s basketball slate has been wiped out because of Monday night’s snowfall. So go sledding, build a snowman, drink plenty of hot chocolate and check back with AllMetsports.com to stay up-to-date with all the postponements and rescheduled games.