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Boys’ basketball Top 20: Paul VI, Sidwell Friends back on top to start year

Ben Hammond and his Paul VI teammates won the WCAC title last winter and open this season as our No. 1 team. (Craig Hudson for The Washington Post)
5 min

The 2022-23 high school basketball season is underway. Last week featured games across the D.C. area, with many schools participating in season-opening tournaments and showcases. Already, a few of them have titles to their names: Paul VI won the Basketball Hall of Fame London Showcase, Sidwell Friends won the Sleepy Thompson tournament at St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, Jackson-Reed won the Flint Hill Tip-Off, and Good Counsel won the Xaverian Classic.

The victories mean little in the grand scheme of this season. The real tournaments are months away, and most area programs hope they will be completely different by that time. Over the course of the long season, every basketball team hopes to be ready when the stakes are win-or-go-home.

Last year, nine of the 20 teams to finish the winter in these rankings won end-of-season championships. Many of them begin this season in the rankings as well — a fresh target on their backs. Foremost among those teams will be Paul VI and Sidwell Friends, who finished No. 1 and No. 2 in our final rankings of last season. The Panthers and the Quakers find themselves in the same spot to start this season.

All records are from last season.

1. Paul VI (31-5) Last ranked: 1

Between returning players and offseason additions, the defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champions have an immense amount of talent. Senior DeShawn Harris-Smith, a Maryland commit, is the leader of this fearsome pack of Panthers.

2. Sidwell Friends (28-1) LR: 2

After winning two titles and garnering national attention last year, the Quakers return nine players and add two impact transfers. With an ambitious nonconference schedule on tap, the Quakers will look to ascend even higher this winter.

3. Gonzaga (18-12) LR: 11

Senior Thomas Batties and sophomore Nyk Lewis are two of the main reasons Coach Steve Turner’s squad will be feared.

4. St. John’s (15-13) LR: Not ranked

The Cadets bring back two of the best players in the WCAC in senior Malik Mack and junior Donnie Freeman while also adding St. Frances transfer Daquan Davis.

5. Hayfield (32-0) LR: 4

The Hawks, who went undefeated last year en route to the Class 6 title, opened this season with a buzzer-beating win over Patriot, another Northern Virginia power.

6. DeMatha (21-7) LR: 6

New Stags coach Mike Jones, formerly of St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, has a deep roster and will look to implement his defense-first approach in Hyattsville.

At DeMatha, an outsider aims to fill impossibly large basketball shoes

7. Jackson-Reed (27-5) LR: 7

The Tigers, winners of four of the past five D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association titles, will lean on junior Robert Dockery to replace the production of last year’s All-Met Player of the Year, Darren Buchanan Jr.

8. Bishop McNamara (22-6) LR: 5

The Mustangs return plenty of talent from a squad that surged to the top of the WCAC last year, leading the conference for much of the regular season and making a tournament championship game appearance.

9. Bullis (18-7) LR: NR

The Bulldogs, led by the trio of Tyler Boston, Zane Adnan and Caden Diggs, look like contenders in the Interstate Athletic Conference.

10. Patriot (26-1) LR: 12

The Pioneers return several key players from a team that went undefeated until the Virginia Class 6 semifinals last year.

11. Eleanor Roosevelt (21-5) LR: 10

The Raiders have long been a mainstay in these rankings, consistently winning games in Prince George’s County and beyond. Last year, they took home the Maryland 4A title.

12. Bishop O’Connell (18-13) LR: NR

Coach Joe Wootten’s Knights consistently find a way to navigate one of the toughest schedules in the area.

13. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (20-4) LR: 3

The Saints, winners of the past three IAC titles, will be led by Andre Hunter, former assistant to Mike Jones, who left for DeMatha.

14. Churchill (24-2) LR: 13

Last winter the Bulldogs saw a special season end in heartbreak when they lost to Eleanor Roosevelt in double overtime in the Maryland 4A title game. They will be talented and motivated this winter.

15. National Christian (30-9) LR: 8

Former Jackson-Reed coach Angelo Hernandez takes over the Eagles and will look to lead them to back-to-back titles in the Maryland Private School Conference.

16. St. Andrew’s (17-8) LR: NR

Coach Kevin Jones and the Lions are looking to reach the Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference title game for a third straight season.

17. Meade (20-4) LR: 20

The Mustangs will look to build on the momentum of last winter’s 20-win season.

18. Landon (10-11) LR: NR

Bears senior guard Tyler Perkins might be one of the best pure scorers in the area.

19. Good Counsel (14-11) LR: NR

The Falcons opened the season by winning their home tournament, the Xaverian Classic.

20. Friendship Tech (16-8) LR: NR

The public charter school will get an early-season test from an ambitious nonconference schedule.

On the bubble: Battlefield, Douglass, Gaithersburg, Gwynn Park, Takoma Academy