Top-ranked Stags basketball wins first four games

December 12, 2015

Markelle Fultz brings the ball upcourt for top-ranked DeMatha. The senior will play next year at the University of Washington. Photo courtesy Chris McManes.

BY CHRIS MCMANES – It’s no surprise that the DeMatha Catholic High School basketball team is ranked No. 1 in the Washington area. The Stags (4-0) are loaded with talent and have an outstanding coaching staff. Here’s something other DMV high school hoop teams probably don’t want to hear:

DeMatha is only going to get better.

“We’re a long way from being a finished product,” Stags Head Coach Mike Jones said, “which is good because it’s just early December.”

DeMatha won its first four games by an average of 29 points. It totally dominated in two home victories, 79-37 over Good Counsel and 91-46 over Archbishop Carroll. It will meet those two Washington Catholic Athletic Conference teams on the road in the New Year, and Jones is expecting much tougher contests.

“We’re fortunate enough to play them this early in the season,” he said. “We know they’re going to be much better the second time around.”

One team the Stags won’t have to face twice is Eleanor Roosevelt. After falling behind 24-7 Thursday night, the Raiders scored the first nine points of the second half to take a 36-34 lead. DeMatha answered with a 16-3 blitz to forge a 50-39 advantage late in the third quarter.

Markelle Fultz and D.J. Harvey combined to score all the Stags’ points during the run. Harvey scored seven points, including two on a fast-break layup after a Josh Carlton block and Fultz assist.

Fultz did most of his damage on driving layups and a slam dunk. On one sequence, he got the ball in the back-court after another Carlton block, drove in for a layup, was fouled and completed the three-point play.

Roosevelt got to within six points twice in the fourth quarter and trailed by just 60-53 when it called a 30-second timeout with 4:27 to play. The Stags outscored the 10th-ranked Raiders 16-1 the rest of the way to win 76-54.

“Roosevelt’s a very good team, a very well-coached team, and they were very-well prepared,” Jones said. “Their struggles in the beginning can probably be somewhat attributed to it being their first game. So we’re very fortunate to have had a little bit of a cushion.

“And I’m definitely happy with the way we played in the fourth quarter.”

Harvey, who ESPN ranks No. 12 in the country among juniors, finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Fultz had 22 points – 17 in the second half – and nine assists. Carlton corralled 11 rebounds and blocked four shots in the triumph at DeMatha’s LT (SEAL) Brendan Looney ’99 Convocation Center.

Fultz and senior Nate Darling both played very well in the Stags’ win over Carroll on Dec. 8. Fultz, who has committed to play for the University of Washington, scored 18 points and had 11 assists. Darling – University of Alabama-Birmingham commit – sank three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points. Carlton tallied 16 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks.

Fultz opened the season with 17 points in the rout of Good Counsel. He and his teammates played stifling defense, particularly in the first half, and jumped to a halftime lead of 43-6.

In the Stags’ 65-57 victory over LeBron James’ alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron, Ohio, in the Chicago Elite Classic, Fultz put DeMatha ahead for good with an early fourth-quarter basket. He totaled 23 points, six assists and two steals. Harvey produced a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

ESPN ranks Fultz the 12th-best senior in the nation. The versatile 6’ 5’’ swing-man plans to play point guard at Washington.

“He’s a leader,” Jones said. “He can score 23 points one night and get 11 assists another night. He’s got the ability to control the game a number of different ways: he can rebound, he can defend, he can steal the ball. That’s why he’s one of the best players in the country.”

Justin Moore and Max Price – the only freshmen on the Stags’ varsity – have seen considerable playing time in the early going. The 6’2’’ Moore scored 12 points in his high school debut and sank three three pointers in four attempts for 14 points against Roosevelt.

“Our two freshmen are playing great, and I’m very happy to see that,” Jones said. “They’re kind of fitting into their roles very nicely for us right now, and I expect that to do nothing but continue.”

Basketball Showcase Coming to Hyattsville

DeMatha, ranked sixth in the nation by USA Today, plays twice at home this weekend in the National High School Hoops Festival. The Stags meet Wise High School on Saturday at 9 p.m. and Virginia Academy on Sunday at 6:45.

The event, sponsored by Nike, will include 13 games over two days and features many of the top players in the nation. Admission is $15 each day.

Chris McManes has been writing about DeMatha basketball since 2010. He is a member of the school’s Alumni Association.