There wasn’t much of a story to the DeMatha Stags’ 77-41 drubbing over Washington, D.C.’s Coolidge Colts on Dec. 2, besides the most prestigious grand opening in school history. The Hyattsville, Md. school cut the ribbon on their brand new $23-million Convocation Center, showcasing the basketball team’s new home, the Morgan and Kathy Wooten Gymnasium.

Named after longtime coach Morgan Wooten and his wife, the general himself was on hand along with some of his former players to witness the newest chapter in DeMatha basketball.

The newest page in DeMatha history read pretty similar to few of its old ones, with the Stags running away to an easy victory. DeMatha led 21-4 after the first quarter and never looked back as each player on the roster was able to get in a good run. The school saluted former players at halftime and even gave a special thanks to a former star turned enemy for the night in Coolidge coach Vaughn Jones. Both Jones and DeMatha head coach Mike Jones (no relation) played together during their high school years in the early ‘90s, adding another backdrop to a special evening in which the school offered free admission to visitors.

“Very exciting, very happy that we were able to start off with a win,” Stags coach Mike Jones said about the incomparable night. “It was special for us to bring back one of the all-time DeMatha greats in Vaughn Jones to be able to go against his team tonight, I just think overall it was a good night for DeMatha.”

Jones has now coached in the Stags’ new arena as well as their old one, Morgan Wooten Gymnasium, which hosted its last home game March 4 earlier this year. DeMatha’s previous basketball court was small, closed in and too miniscule to host big games. For contests expecting large turnouts, the team would often have to travel to other venues to accommodate massive crowds. They won’t have to do that anymore however. The Convocation Center resembles a college-style arena, equipped with a DeMatha apparel store and a concession stand upon entrance. Railing stationed around the basketball court allows spectators to stand and watch when bleacher seats are not available. As impressive as their new home is, Jones knows that the arena has some pretty large shoes to fill, despite its bigger body.

“It doesn’t have its mystique yet,” Jones said. “ was so intimate close games and everything, when things got a little tight we could kind of rely on close quarters and our student section and all our fans kind of pushing us over the top. Over here it’s so much more space it did get pretty loud in there tonight. We don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like in a close game yet so I guess there’s still a little uncertainty.”

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO