For all that DeMatha’s boys’ basketball team accomplished this season, from maintaining a spot in national rankings to notching the fourth-most wins in school history with 33, Stags Coach Mike Jones learned the most about his players following a rare loss.
After falling in double overtime in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference final — a game that Jones admits is the team’s most important annual goal — the Stags could have collapsed as they did last season, when they followed up a WCAC championship defeat with consecutive losses to close the year. Instead, he found a motivated bunch, unwilling to let the disappointment of one game define their entire season.
The Stags (33-4) went on to win their first Maryland Private Schools tournament title along with the Alhambra Catholic Invitational, lifting them to the No. 1 spot in The Post’s final Top 20 rankings for the 26th time.
“I’m not going to lie; going into the season, the most important thing for us is to win the league,” Jones said. “But we didn’t do it. And even though we felt like we should have and could have won the game, this year was totally different from last year because our guys got refocused immediately. They still were motivated to have the best season possible.”
Leading that charge were WCAC player of the year Markelle Fultz, who had a breakout junior season in which he averaged a team-high 16.5 points, and swingman D.J. Harvey, a sophomore with plenty of skill and national clout. Role players like point guard Terrell Allen and sharpshooting sixth man Nate Darling were equally important.
With that core, the Stags defeated two nationally-ranked opponents and won 16 of their 18 games in WCAC play.
“Even after we lost a few guys from last season, you could see the potential was there with this group,” Jones said. “We didn’t schedule lightly, won some tough games, and I think this team really came together and enjoyed playing with each other.”
Meade found similar success in the Maryland public school ranks to finish at No. 2. The Mustangs cruised through the state tournament to become the first Anne Arundel County school to win the Maryland 4A title in 25 years.
At No. 3, Westfield put together its best season in school history with 25 straight wins, a Virginia 6A North region title and its first state final appearance, where the Bulldogs fell just short of the title.
Rounding out the final top five slots were No. 4 St. John’s, which, despite graduating all five of its starters from a year ago, won the D.C. State Athletic Association title, and No. 5 Gonzaga, which outlasted DeMatha in the WCAC championship to win its first crown since 2008.
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