The top-ranked DeMatha Stags may have the most skilled roster in the District, but even they had to take a back seat to the type of talent assembled at their last home game. On Feb. 25, 60 years worth of legendary DeMatha players gathered for the Stags’ last game at Morgan Wootten Gymnasium.

On DeMatha’s senior night, the current Stags paid tribute to their former greats by running around the Good Counsel Falcons to a 79-65 finish. After DeMatha seniors Jerian Grant and Victor Oladipo were honored prior to the game, they helped get the ball rolling by exploding in the first quarter. Grant’s dunk and free throw conversion brought the crowd to their feet before Oladipo’s three-point attempt at the buzzer banked off the glass and dropped into the net to close the quarter with the Stags ahead, 20-9.

“I just felt like I had to help my team do whatever it took to win,” Oladipo said. “It was a special night for us and I just wanted to go out of Morgan Wootten Gymnasium on a good note.”

DeMatha junior point guard Quinn Cook was forced to take notes from the bench as he gave away his regular starting job to senior Derrick Banks. But once Cook entered the game at the start of the second quarter, it was all smiles and all scores for one of the area’s top players.

“It was just a great night to be a part of DeMatha,” Cook said. “It doesn’t matter what grade you’re in, just to be a part of what happened tonight can go with you for the rest of your life. This is probably one of the most, if not the most, legendary gyms of all-time. To be a part of the closing and being on the team that closed it out is an honor.”

Cook and Oladipo led the Stags with 15 points apiece, while Grant added 13. DeMatha took a 39-24 lead into the ceremonial halftime, while fans cheered for players of every decade from 1950-2010. Thirty-eight former players were on hand to witness legendary coach Morgan Wootten’s personal thank you and farewell speech to the venue where he built his legacy.

“Tradition never ends, it just continues,” Wootten said as he addressed the crowd before tip-off.
DeMatha continued to jump all over Good Counsel in the second half, surviving a brief scare when the Falcons (17-9 overall, 10-6 WCAC) closed the score to 48-41 at the bottom of the third quarter. The Stags (26-3 overall, 17-1 WCAC) then went on a 9-2 run to close the quarter ahead, 57-43, before putting the Falcons away for good in the final period. Falcons guard Ben Hazel led all scorers with 18 points, connecting on a game-high six three-pointers.

DeMatha will move across the street to its new $15 million Convocation Center next season, but closing their original home in style was first on the agenda for the Stags.

“One of the main things we tried to focus on is the fact that a lot of teams wouldn’t be able to handle this. The hoopla before the game and the different warm-ups; it’s not a triple-header like it normally is,” DeMatha head coach Mike Jones said. “A lot of things went into the game that was different, but if anybody were to be able to handle it, I think it was our guys. That’s something we’ve been preaching ever since we knew all of the hoopla that was going to go with tonight.”

The Stags finished the regular season as the top team in the area and first in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. The WCAC playoffs will begin this week, and run throughout the first couple weeks of March.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO