Seven different teams had claimed the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title since Westlake last sat atop of the standings in 2001. Thirteen years and three coaches later the Wolverines are back on top under second-year Coach Edward Mouton.
“It’s been a rough road,” Mouton said. “They’ve kind of been at the bottom for a long time, I guess below .500 for a long time. There weren’t many winning seasons since 2001.”
Westlake seniors Desi Wiseman (16.6 points per game), Derrick Perry (6.6 rebounds per game) and Chris Craft (9 ppg, 7 rpg) got used to Mouton’s system last year. They are supplemented by quick junior point guard Dominic Espeleta and Omar Alston.
“We’ve got a good bench and we’ve got all the players we need,” Espeleta said. “We’ll keep practicing hard going into playoffs. We need to focus on keeping the lead after we’ve got control in a game.”
Thomas Stone (16-6) and North Point (17-5) have traditionally dominated the league and the Wolverines (18-4) needed to beat both teams at home and away — including two overtime wins — to unseat the conference favorites.
“For a long time, when you say SMAC basketball, you only think of North Point and Stone,” Mouton said. “They’ve been pretty much winning the SMAC for the past 10 years. What we had to do was go into their place and win at the end of the season.”
Westlake has a first-round bye and will play the winner of Crossland and Lackey in the Maryland 3A South quarterfinals on March 3. With a win, they could again meet Thomas Stone — the team that knocked them out in the region quarterfinals the last two years.
The goal, like every other team in the area at this time of the season, is to reach the semifinals at Comcast Center. Mouton believe his team can make it, and earning a top seed in the bracket was a key first step.
The last and only time that the Wolverines made it to the state tournament was the same year of their last conference championship, which came thirteen years ago.