Stags win Maryland championship, head to Frostburg for prestigious tournament

March 10, 2016

Markelle Fultz, with ball, prepares to use a Nate Darling screen in DeMatha's Maryland Private School Championship victory. Fultz was named Most Valuable Player. Photo courtesy Chris McManes

BY CHRIS MCMANES — Basketball coaches want their team to win every possession. It doesn’t matter whether they’re up by 25 or down by 20, they want to see intensity on both sides of the ball. It also doesn’t matter whether the starting five is in the game or seldom-used reserves.

That’s why you see coaches continuing to praise or find fault in games where the outcome is no longer in doubt. Good habits have to be worked on at all times.

Offensively, the DeMatha Catholic basketball team was as crisp and spot-on as it could be in its 101-77 victory Monday night over Capitol Christian to win the Maryland Private School Championship. Played at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, it was the first time this year the Stags eclipsed the 100-point mark.

Defensively? That’s another story. Only nationally ranked Oak Hill scored more points on DeMatha this season than the Warriors.

“We gave up a lot of points,” said Stags senior All-American Markelle Fultz, who was named tournament MVP. “I think offensively we’re clicking and playing together, but defensively we’ve got to pick it up the same way we play offense. We’re headed in that direction.”

DeMatha (29-5), ranked third locally and 17th nationally, heads to Frostburg (Md.) State University to play in the 56th-annual Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament. The Stags play St. Frances (30-9) of the Baltimore Catholic League tonight at 9:15.

DeMatha will find a host of familiar teams in the event, which started in 1961 and is based in Cumberland, Md. The Stags will be joined by fellow Washington Catholic Athletic Conference foes St. John’s, Gonzaga and Paul VI.

DeMatha displayed its finest outside shooting performance of the year against Capitol Christian (29-12), hitting 11 3-pointers in the first half. Fultz, who will attend the University of Washington next year, hit four of the Stags’ seven treys in first quarter as DeMatha raced to a 35-11 lead.

“Our shots just came from sharing the ball,” said Stag senior Kellon Taylor, who also played on DeMatha’s WCAC champion football team. “We found open players and that’s how we usually win games. Energy-wise, we always make the extra pass.

“That’s what makes our offense go.”

Fultz and DeMatha big man Josh Carlton had 12 points each at the break. Junior forward D.J. Harvey sank two treys in the first 16 minutes and made the All-Tournament team.

“We shot the ball very well,” Jones said.

The Stags expanded their 51-34 halftime lead with a 23-point third quarter. Fultz scored nine in the period and then sat out the fourth. He finished with a game-high 21 points, six rebounds and 11 assists (10 in the first half).

Carlton, who has received a scholarship offer from La Salle, scored 16 points and Alabama Birmingham recruit Nate Darling 14 to help the Stags win the third-year event for the second straight year.

For DeMatha’s six seniors, it was their final game in Prince George’s County. Jones brought that up in the locker room before they took the floor.

“I just reminded them that this would be the last time that this team plays together in this area, and obviously for our seniors, it would be the last time a lot of people would have the opportunity to see them play,” Jones said. “So [I told them], ‘You might as well make it memorable.’”

Jones doesn’t like to look beyond the next game on the schedule, but his players are seeking to avenge their 71-57 WCAC championship game loss to St. John’s in the Alhambra tournament.

“Most definitely,” Harvey said.

Chris McManes (mick-maynz) coaches basketball at St. Jerome Parish in Hyattsville. He learned the game under Morgan Wootten and the former DeMatha coach’s mentor, the late Joe Gallagher.