By Steve Spiewak
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - The first annual National High School Hoops Festival concluded Sunday evening, going out with a bang. In a highly competitive matchup, Maryland powerhouse DeMatha held off a persistent Towson Catholic team, 63-59.
The two-day event featured top teams from the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas, as well as several prominent out-of-state teams from around the country. Sizeable crowds were on hand both Saturday and Sunday to witness some of the best players and teams around.
- The event was hosted by Wise High School, whose facilities were stellar. The gymnasium looked like it belonged on the campus of a small college. However, the Panthers struggled to defend their home court, getting upended by Riverdale Baptist in the second game on Saturday.
- Referees surprised both players and fans by calling something that normally goes ignored: the carry. Several players got called for carrying the ball throughout the weekend. Most notably, South Kent guard Isaiah Thomas, a future Washington Husky, was called for carrying at least three times in a loss to the Patterson School.
- Having a Wootten at the helm of a national powerhouse is nothing new to the D.C. area, where legendary coach Morgan Wootten led DeMatha to national prominence over the course of 46 years. However, it's his son, Joe Wootten, who made a splash this weekend, coaching Bishop O'Connell to a blow out victory over South Oak Cliff, a Dallas area team. Wootten is in his ninth season, and his program continues to improve.
The Knights boast quite an array of talent, including senior guard Jason Clark, who is on his way to Georgetown next fall, and 7-footer Frank Ben-Eze, who held South Oak Cliff star J'Mison Morgan to only three points. But the most talented played on the Knights' roster could be sophomore Kendall Marshall, a speedy, athletic guard who can both pass and shoot exceptionally well.
- Speaking of DeMatha, they turned out a strong performance against Baltimore's best, Towson Catholic. The Stags graduated a host of talented players, most notably Austin Freeman, now at Georgetown. However, DeMatha reloaded with two key transfers, 6-2 guard Josh Selby and 6-5 swing man Naji Hibbert.
On Sunday, two other sharpshooting guards stood out, juniors Philip Green and Marcus Rouse. Each displayed outstanding touch from beyond the arc. With freshman Quinn Cook also contributing, DeMatha is a very young but dangerous team that could gel together nicely before playoff time.
- Courtney Fortson, a guard at the Patterson School, has followed up a strong summer circuit with some dominant play early on this season. He led the way in a victory over South Kent on Saturday night, and was the catalyst to a 99-95 victory over American Christian in overtime.
The future Arkansas Razorback poured in 30 points, displaying versatility offensively and tenacity defensively. He stole the limelight from star American Christian guard Tyreke Evans , who is considered one of the top five seniors in the country.
Bishop McNamara (Md.) 63, Laurel (Md.) 57,
Riverdale Baptist (Md.) 85, Wise (Md.) 70
St. Raymond (N.Y.) 89, Archbishop Carroll (D.C.) 72
Patterson School (N.C.) 81, South Kent (Conn.) 79
Bishop O'Connell 73 (Va.), South Oak Cliff (Texas) 35
Pope Paul VI (Va.) 57, St. Frances (Md.) 48
Patterson School (N.C.) 99, American Christian (Pa.) 95 (Overtime)
DeMatha (Md.), 63 Towson Catholic (Md.) 59