BY CHRIS MCMANES — The future looks bright for the DeMatha Catholic basketball team. The present looks pretty good, too.
Senior All-American Markelle Fultz produced a triple-double, junior D.J. Harvey had a double-double, and freshman Justin Moore scored a career-high 18 points to power the Stags to a 71-53 victory over host Riverdale Baptist in the semifinals of the Maryland Private Schools Championship (MPSC) on Saturday night.
DeMatha (28-5), ranked fourth in The Washington Post Top 20 and 16th nationally by USA Today, will meet Capitol Christian (27-11) at Bishop McNamara in Forestville on Monday night at 7. The Stags are looking to repeat as MPSC champions.
Fultz started slowly before showing the standing-room-only crowd why ESPN ranks him the 10th-best senior in America. He finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and one monster jam that sent a jolt of electricity throughout the arena.
“He struggled the first four minutes of the game, and that’s when we were kind of trying to feel our way, but once he got going and started attacking the rim, he raised our team’s energy level,” DeMatha’s 14-year Coach Mike Jones said. “The blocks he had, him assisting his teammates and getting them open shots, and obviously his work with rebounding tonight was really good.
“His eight defensive rebounds were very important.”
Harvey, who has most of the top college basketball programs in the country clamoring for his services, finished with a game-high 22 points and 11 boards. After his slam dunk from the baseline off a Ryan Allen miss, he recorded a block and delivered a 3-pointer.
“He was playing awful before that tap dunk, but that really got him going,” Jones said. “It was good to see because we really needed it, and it kind of got everyone’s energy going.”
The Stags, who gave up the game’s first five points, were trailing 23-22 before Moore – one of only two freshmen on the team – dropped in a pair of treys to ignite a 16-3 run. Allen followed Moore’s triple with one of his own, and the 6-foot-2 Moore blocked a shot that led to a transition layup by Harvey.
Moore, who had 13 points in the period, punctuated the scoring with another triple. DeMatha went into the break with a 38-26 advantage.
Jones said Moore’s play came as no surprise to anyone affiliated with the team.
“He’s worked really hard this year, and with the really good perimeter players that we have [who are] older than him, his opportunities to score aren’t always there,” Jones said. “But we’ve really encouraged him lately to be more aggressive offensively, and he did that tonight.”
“Our defense got a little lax in the second quarter, and we fell asleep on No. 4 (Moore),” Riverdale Baptist Coach Lou Wilson said. “We were paying so much attention to No. 20 (Fultz) and No. 5 (Harvey), and we left No. 4 open, and he made some shots.”
Senior Jamal Wright led the Crusaders (25-10) with 13 points and scored the 1,000th of his career late in the third period on a 3-ball from the top of the key. He struggled from beyond the arc, making 3 of 11, as did junior Deion Hammond (10 points), who sank just 1 of 7.
“To [the Stags’] credit, they made some shots tonight and we didn’t,” said Wilson, whose more than 600 victories makes him the winningest coach in Prince George’s County. “We missed a lot of open shots tonight.”
The 6-6 Harvey showcased his all-around athleticism by depositing three 3-pointers and hitting a jump hook. His steal and slam gave the Stags a 47-33 lead midway through the third period as DeMatha maintained a double-digit lead after halftime.
It was Fultz’s straightway dunk in the second half that had people grabbing their heads and looking at each other in disbelief. Fultz took the inbounds pass from Allen, drove straight down the middle, went past a defender and skied about a foot above the rim before slamming it home.
“I don’t think I’ll be surprised by much that he does at this point,” Jones said. “He’s an All-American [and] a probable pro, and that’s what you expect those guys to do. He’s good.”
Wilson and Jones have known each for over 25 years. Wilson coached him on an AAU basketball team the summer before Jones’ senior year (1990-91) at DeMatha. The Stags finished 30-0 that season.
“He’s a great guy and he’s a hard worker,” Wilson said. “He’s done a great job at DeMatha taking over for the legendary Morgan Wootten, and he’s keeping the ball rolling over there. I have good respect for him.”
Wilson played at Howard University from (1977-81) and helped it become the first Historically Black College to make it to the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament. Northwestern High School graduate Larry Spriggs played with Wilson before going on to help the Los Angeles Lakers win the 1985 NBA World Championship.
For an hour and 11 minutes Saturday, fans were entertained by two of the top private school basketball programs in the county. The teams met for the first time in the same tournament last year. Jones admires the tradition Wilson has built at the Upper Marlboro school.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” he said, “and the atmosphere in there is a tribute to what he’s built here at Riverdale.”