WCAC reschedules all fall high school sports to January

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) is rescheduling its upcoming fall sports season to January 2021, becoming the latest interscholastic athletics association to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioner Stephen Colantuoni said he met with athletic directors of member schools multiple times since March, coming up with different plans to resume athletics once schools reopen. Colantuoni said the goal was to come back with their full slate of fall sports, including football, soccer, cross-country field hockey, volleyball and tennis.

However, as time wore on and the continued spread of COVID-19 across the metropolitan region, the decision was made to hold off playing during the fall. The plan discussed during a meeting with the heads of schools last week, according to Colantuoni. 

“We held off for as long as we could,” Colantuoni said. “The biggest problem we have is we play in two different states and the District of Columbia, and we have seven jurisdictions, and every one of them is different.”

The WCAC is comprised of 13 private schools and must adhere to local guidelines regarding outside and indoor gatherings during the pandemic. As private institutions, they are not obligated to adhere to any public school system guidelines and can act independently in terms of having athletic competitions on school property.

The league will be monitoring restrictions placed on its schools across their jurisdictions and the feasibility of moving all fall athletics to early 2021. It will, however, consider playing a conference-only schedule, Colantuoni said.

“We made a commitment to our kids,” Colantuoni said. “That we are going to try as best we can to get a season in some time down the road. That’s the whole thing; our athletics are second to none.”

Colantuoni also stated the conference is focus on assuring all its student-athletes an opportunity to play this upcoming school year.

“Our spring sports, they got beat last (season), and they didn’t get to play at all,” Colantuoni said. “So that was really difficult for them, so I don’t want to do that two (seasons) in a row.”

The conference’s decision comes after multiple school districts and associations elect to reschedule or cancel their athletic programs.

Both District of Columbia State Athletic Association and the Virginia High School League made plans to move their fall sports to February 2021. However, Montgomery County Public School canceled their fall and winter seasons and Prince George’s County Public Schools’ athletics are postponed during virtual learning.

Moving the season to the spring can become problematic because college football prospects can enroll early and leave before the start of the season. Other possible concerns include the physical health of senior athletes who plan to enroll during the summer months will be entering workouts weeks after concluding a spring football season.

After a time of reflection, McNamara brings back Keithline as boys basketball coach

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Photo by: Erica Calhoun

HYATTSVILLE – As the 2019-2020 basketball season was in full swing, Martin “Marty” Keithline had a moment of reflection. 

After leaving his position as the head coach of the Bishop McNamara High School boys basketball team, he stayed in touch with his love of sports through his position as the school’s director of athletic operations.

When his father, a fellow coach in his own regard, died in January, it was the first time Keithline said he thought of returning to coaching basketball in any capacity. Three months later, as the position he once held was reopened, Keithline jumped at the chance at returning to the sport he loved.

“I had been going straight since 1996 until 2018 as a head coach,” Keithline said. “So I never had time just to sit back and reflect. And those two years gave me a chance to reflect on what is important in life. Coaching young men in the sport of basketball is important to me, and that was something important to him as well. That loss really affected me. I wanted to get back to coaching basketball.”

McNamara welcomed the return of Keithline, formally announcing his return to the sidelines as the Mustangs’ new head boys basketball coach on May 6. He will continue as the school’s director of athletic operations while coaching, school officials said.

“Coach Keithline’s effectiveness at engaging our student-athletes in both the technical skill development required on the court and their academic investment in the classroom is a huge win for our boys’ basketball program,” Incoming President/CEO John Barnhardt said. “I could not be more excited to see how his program will influence our school community and the larger impact they will have in the WCAC.”

While he is happy to return to the role, Keithline said he has no time to cherish the moment. Following the announcement, he contacted all the returning players and their families to inform them of the news and start their offseason schedule. Until state and local leaders deem it safe, McNamara will not access to their athletic facilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is going to be a lot of day-to-day relationship building, and weekly relationship building through Zoom calls and Google meets and text messages,” Keithline said. “All of those things will happen over the next couple of weeks, and I look forward to coaching all the young men.”

McNamara elected to let go of head coach Keith Veney Sr. after two seasons in charge and started an open coaching search. Veney was one of the first people Keithline met during his arrival to McNamara in 2001. The decision to let him go was “out of [my] hands, Keithline said. Despite his position at hte school, he faced the same interview process with the school president and principal as every applicant.

“From the viewpoint of being the director of athletic operations, I was put in a tough spot,” Keithline said. “But I live my life with integrity, and I am going to do what I can to make the administration happy and make sure these kids and parents feel that they are getting everything they need from the basketball and academics [and] education side of McNamara.”

It has been the tale of two different basketball programs at the Forestville-based school. Its girls’ basketball team under Head Coach Frank Oliver Jr. won its first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) girls basketball tournament since 2008 this past February. Meanwhile, the boys’ basketball team has yet to win the annual championship since 1995.

Under Veney, the Mustangs finished 39-23 in two seasons but did not surpass the quarterfinal rounds of the WCAC Boys Basketball Tournament. New Hope Academy in Landover Hills announced on May 4 that Veney would take over its boys basketball program. 

In Keithline’s first 15 years with McNamara, the Mustangs amassed 242 victories. His players were regularly recruited by “notable colleges and university,” according to Keithline’s school profile. That reputation, school officials say, will hopefully continue during his second stint.

“I look forward to the enthusiasm, dedication, and knowledge and understanding of the game he will bring to our boys’ basketball team,” Principal Dian Carter said. “He is anchored in our mission and will hold our student-athletes to high standards both on and off the court.”

Heading to next season, Keithline will be without graduating senior Kenny Womack, a two-sport athlete who will attempt to play both football and basketball at Sacred Heart University.

However, rising junior Favour Aire will look to be the Mustangs’ difference maker next season. The 6-foot-10, 210-pound center finished the season being named to the WCAC All-Conference First Team after his sophomore year. The four-star athlete has received offers from three schools and is listed as the state’s No. 2 junior recruit, according to 247Sports Composite.

Together with returning forward Terrance Butler, McNamara will look to progress further in both the WCAC and outside competitions. To accomplish this goal, Keithline said the basics will need to prioritize first under this time of quarantine, so basketball can be the focus as soon as they return to the gym.

“The team is very talented; I am excited for the young men in this program,” Keithline said. “It is all about the team, and individual success will come through team success. I look forward to working with all the young men in the program.”

A look back at the WCAC Girls Basketball Championship in Photos

Check out some photos from the 2020 WCAC Girls Basketball Championship held at Bender Arena in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 24, 2020 from The Sports Pulse Photographer Michael R. Smith.

Stags take down Paul VI, win 41st WCAC title

By Brooks Warren
The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON – The DeMatha Catholic High School boys basketball team opened up the new decade on a high note as they held off Paul VI Catholic, 70-54, to win the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) Boys Basketball Tournament Championship at American University on Monday night.

With the win, the Stags won their second title in three years and their 41st conference championship. The victory was also head coach Mike Jones’ 500th win in his 18-year career at the Hyattsville-based school.

“My other finger was kinda getting lonely over there,” senior center Hunter Dickinson said, smiling, “I needed another one.”

In front of an electric crowd at the Bender Arena, DeMatha’s senior class stole the show. With every touch of the ball and dribble down the court, Dickinson, forward Earl Timberlake, as the rest of the Stags attempted to finish every play with purpose, wearing the enthusiasm on their faces.

After the game, several players spoke about honoring the victory to Morgan Wootton, the former DeMatha head coach who died late last year.

That motivation was the perfect backdrop for a fast-paced, but physical contest against Paul VI. Dickinson was a key factor all night on both sides of the ball.

Despite just scoring 10 points, the University of Michigan commit was demonstrative in his leadership, instructing his teammates consistently on the defensive end.

Meanwhile, Timberlake focused on being an offensive machine, registering 21 points and six assists while adding eight rebounds and five blocks.

Washington, DC – February 24: DeMatha Stags Earl Timberlake (0) shoots the ball during the WCAC 2020 Basketball Championship at Bender Arena in Washington DC.
(Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse).

He battled with Paul VI’s Jeremy Roach all night; a challenge fans relished to see after the point guard’s 24-point performance in Sunday’s semifinals.

While Roach finished with 22 points, Timberlake made vital stops to negate any momentum building moments for the Panthers.

“My shots (have) been a little off,” Timberlake admitted. “I never doubted myself, I trust the work that I put in, early mornings, late nights, and I took my shots.”

The senior leadership brought on by Dickinson and Timberlake proved to be essential for the win, Jones said.

“Me and Earl, we’ve been through so much together,” Dickinson said. “Since starting in eighth grade, just been brothers ever since, and it’s just really special to win one with them.”

It was a seesaw match. DeMatha threw the first punch with an 8-0 run late in the opening frame to gain a lead they would not surrender. The Panthers fought all night to obtain an advantage, but the Stags always had a response.

DeMatha received help from junior wing Jordan Hawkins, who finished with 17 points, to head into halftime with a five-point lead.

Paul VI’s best moment came during a 9-0 run that spanned throughout the third and fourth quarter, which included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from junior guard Trevor Keels (22 points).

However, it was DeMatha’s dynamic pair that stood up once again to seal the win. First, Dickinson stopped the bleeding when he sank two free throws, followed by a couple of 3-pointers from Timberlake to give the Stags a nine-point lead with less than two minutes remaining.

After sinking the second attempt, Timberlake shouted to the crowd with pride, claiming the title was heading home to Hyattsville.

“It’s huge…you talk about pressure, you talk about being able to leave a legacy if two guys felt that pressure, it’s those two,” Jones said. “So, again, they’re running around, talking a little bit, again, they’re the ones who had to feel the brunt of that all year long, so they deserve to be able to do it.”

Bishop McNamara captures first WCAC Tournament title since 2008

By José Umaña
The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON – After receiving the final inbound pass with 2.8 seconds remaining in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) Girls Basketball Tournament Championship, guard Madison Scott completed one dribble before launching the ball into the air in celebration at Bender Arena on Feb. 24.

As time expired, her Bishop McNamara High School teammates rushed to the floor to celebrate with Scott and the rest of the Lady Mustangs. The hugs and cheers pushed the guard and fellow senior Liatu King to the ground, but the passion was welcomed.

“It all the hard work paying off,” Scott said. “The last four years have been crazy, and we had a lot of obstacles, but we had a lot of sacrifices and hard work and dedication. When that buzzer went off, it was a weight lifted off my shoulders. We did what we came here to do, and it felt amazing.”

It was the completion of a long journey for head coach Frank Oliver and the Lady Mustangs, which began after he was hired in 2013. Under his tenure, McNamara restored itself into a girls basketball powerhouse in the metropolitan region. The only thing missing was a WCAC title.

Against Paul VI on Monday night, McNamara showed its defensive prowess, limiting WCAC Co-Player of the Year Lee Volker to nine points. Meanwhile, the senior duo combined for 23 points to lead the Lady Mustangs to a 43-40 victory to capture the school’s first tournament championship since 2008.

The win was more than just a historic one for McNamara as they avenge losing in last year’s final to St. John’s, a defeat that bothered many players heading into the offseason. McNamara (27-5) was able to silence its long-time rivals in this year’s semifinals.

“It fueled our fire all summer long because it left a bad taste in our mouths,” Oliver said. “Sometimes, you have to go through setbacks, trials and tribulations. But these young ladies persevered, learn their lessons from last year, came back, and they were committed to winning a championship for Bishop McNamara.”

Both teams started off slow as McNamara committed five turnovers in the opening five minutes while Paul VI did not score their first basket until their seventh attempt. However, the Lady Mustangs settled down and began attacking the rim with ease, going on a 12-1 run that bled through the second quarter.

McNamara’s run was aided by the team’s veterans Liatu King and Madison Scott, as they facilitated the majority of the offense while causing multiple turnovers. During the run, Scott darted down the court for a transition layup while the shortest Mustang on the court, 5-foot-2 Hope Evans, forced a quick steal off an inbounded pass for an easy basket.

Washington, DC – February 24: Bishop McNamara Mustangs Liatu King (2) blocks a shot by Paul VI Panthers Faith Alston (14) during the WCAC 2020 Basketball Championship at Bender Arena in Washington, DC. (Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse).

“We weren’t always good at analyzing zones, but after working at it, we were able to attack the zone,” King said on what sparked their offensive spurts. “Once we did that, you saw the outcome. We were scoring layups and getting fouls by attacking the zone. The zone is nothing. They are just sitting there; they are not actually playing defense.”

With Volker limited to two points before halftime, Paul VI turned to sophomore Jaelyn Talley to provide help offensively. The forward scored a game-high 14 points, including seven in the first half, to bring their deficit down to five points.

However, the Lady Panthers were unable to break through for the first six minutes of the second half as McNamara grew its advantage into the double digits.

McNamara’s lesser-known players provided the most impact in the fourth quarter. First, sophomore point guard Yonta Vaughn ended a four-minute drought with a driving layup to keep their advantage at seven points. Senior Hope Evans was 5-of-8 at the free-throw line as time began to wind down.

Paul VI rallied late with Volker scoring five fourth-quarter points and Talley firing off a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds remaining. With the ball in their hands, King said her teammates kept their intensity through the final inbounded play until the final buzzer sounded.

“It was just hard work paying off,” Scott said. “We played good defense, we trusted one another and won the game.”

Oliver said winning the WCAC title was just the beginning of what McNamara plans to accomplish. With Vaughn and freshman Sahnya Jah returning to the program next year, there is no limit to what they can do in the future.

“Once you get a taste of it, you want to do it again,” Oliver said. “So, we are ready to do it again next year.”

Bishop McNamara v. St. John’s in WCAC Girls Basketball Semifinal (Photos)

Check out some frames taken by The Sports Pulse Photographer Michael R. Smith from the WCAC Girls Basketball Semifinals at Bender Arena in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 23.

DeMatha drops St. John’s, advances to WCAC Championship

PVI defeats Gonzaga to face Stags in final

By Brooks Warren
The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON – DeMatha Catholic High School and Paul VI Catholic High School descended upon the nation’s capital for the opportunity to play for the WCAC basketball championship.

At the same time, St. John’s College High School took on Gonzaga College High School, respectively, both in competitive affairs at American University on Feb. 23.

The No. 1 seeded Stags beat the No. 4 Cadets, 63-50, to take the first spot in the championship game on Feb. 24. Senior forward Earl Timberlake led DeMatha with 19 points, Hunter Dickinson contributed 17 points, and Elijah Hawkins followed up with 14 points.

The Cadets were led by senior guard Ishmael Leggett who scored a game-high 22 points, and Manzie Wilson scored 12 points.

“(I’m) very proud of our team,” Stags head coach Mike Jones said.
“It’s all about surviving and advancing; we survived today, and I’m very proud of this team.”

The Stags never trailed in their double-digit victory, leading by as many 16 points, but a win was far from guaranteed in the physical and scrappy game.

St. John’s keyed in early on Dickinson, who dominated an early-season matchup when he scored a career-high 40 points against the Cadets. Hawkins, in particular, imposed his will as a premier two-way player in the WCAC.

“I just want to have a dog mentality every time I get on the floor,” Hawkins said. “Because that’s what my team expects me to do. They expect me to step up defensively and just hit open shots when I can.”

The diminutive guard was hellacious on defense, giving Wilson or Leggett consistent trouble while making sublime decisions with the ball in transition after forcing turnovers.

The Cadets cut the deficit to just seven in the fourth quarter following a 3-pointer from senior forward John Square Jr. However, DeMatha responded with a 10-0 run, including six free throws from Hawkins to establish a 56-39 lead.

“It’s going pretty well,” Hawkins said about his first season as starting point guard of DeMatha. “I learn from the guys that were ahead of me like Jahmir (Young) and Justin (Moore), who took the role last year, and I’m just doing whatever I can to help the team win.”

The second game of the evening was a 74-63 PVI win over Gonzaga. Jeremy Roach, a senior Duke University commit guard, led the Panthers with a game-high 24 points, junior guard Trevor Keels had 18 points, and sophomore guard Dug McDaniel came up with 14 points.

Sophomore guard Devin Dinkins scored a team-high 16 points, and senior forward Terrance Williams followed up with 15 points. The PVI offense, whose identity revolves around controlling the pace and playing full-court offense, came out fast and threw the first punch with an 11-0 run and never looked back.

That was mostly due to Roach, who sat out his junior season with a torn right ACL. That restlessness of not playing an entire season contributed to Roach having a lot of pent up energy in his first game back in Bender Arena.

Washington, DC – February 23: Paul VI Panthers Jeremy Roach (1) shoots the ball over Gonzaga Eagles Myles Stute (22) during the WCAC 2020 Basketball Championship Semifinal match at Bender Arena in Washington, DC. (Michael R. Smith/The Sports Pulse).

“We’re not losing again,” Roach said defiantly. “We’ve lost every single year, so I just told them ‘yo I just need you all for 32 minutes, we did that, we fought all the way through. I was not letting us lose.”

From whistle to whistle, the senior guard imposed his will, having little trouble getting anything he wanted throughout the night. When he wasn’t getting into the lane at will, Roach was talking trash to Dinkins or Williams while on defense, setting a rebellious tone for the night that his teammates quickly picked up, including Keels and McDaniels who gave their defenders an earful or stared them down whenever they scored.

“They came out the gate pretty fast,” Dinkins said, “Scored a lot of points, and we were able to fight back our second run just wasn’t enough to get the W. Even when Gonzaga outscored the Panthers 22-12 in the third quarter and even tied the game off a layup from senior guard Chuck Harris.

The response was Roach hitting a pull-up jumper from mid-range just before the buzzer to make it a one-possession game. That poise from their leader allowed the Panthers to reel off an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter. Though, Gonzaga never recovered from the onslaught.

“There’s a reason why (Roach) is a McDonald’s All-American, Jordan Brand game, and he’s going to Duke,” Gonzaga head coach Steve Turner said. “I thought at times Judah Mintz did a really good job on him, and I thought there were times we lost him in transition. He’s a great playmaker, one of the best players in the area.”

Stay tuned for our coverage of the championship at Bender Arena at 8 p.m. tonight (Feb. 24).

McNamara finishes off Lady Cadets in WCAC Semifinals

By José Umaña
The Sports Pulse Contributing Writer

WASHINGTON – Heading into the final two minutes of the fourth quarter with a 42-41 lead, the Bishop McNamara High School girls basketball team was just moments away from defeating their St. John’s in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) Basketball Championship Tournament semifinals on Sunday afternoon.

The Lady Mustangs called on their senior leaders, Liatu King and Madison Scott, to connect with the game’s final blows, and they delivered. First, Scott, a 6-foot-2 guard, slapped away a layup attempt by Caramina Tanedo to stop a possible lead change.

“One stop, that’s all we kept saying,” Scott said. “We are a defensive team, and we know defense wins championships. Once I got that block, I said ‘let’s go, we are winning this game.’

Then, as time ticked away with McNamara holding a three-point lead, King hit a fall-away jumper, causing the Bender Arena at American University to shake. As time expired, the Lady Mustangs celebrated in center court as the crowd roared with approval.

In the quest to win their first WCAC title since 2008, McNamara beat its biggest foe by shutting down standout junior Azzi Fudd and playing tough man-to-man defense.

Three players scored in double-figures as the Lady Mustangs defeated St. John’s 46-41 to earn a berth to the WCAC finals on Monday night.
Both teams entered the semifinals trading wins with each other during the regular season. The Mustangs earned a key away win on Jan. 21, 42-37, while the Lady Cadets spoiled Senior Day in Forestville with a 68 – 64 overtime victory.

However, McNamara still felt the sting of last year’s loss to St. John’s in the tournament finals last season, where Fudd scored a game-high 32 points. The pain of that defeat weighed on the veteran players, including Scott and King, who recall last year’s disappointment vividly.

“Me and Maddie had to keep our heads in the game,” King said. “Coach (Frank Oliver) said the passion you have for each other is the same passion you need to have to beat St. John’s. So, with all the anger we had, we knew we needed to close the game out.”

McNamara jumped into a 13-5 run to end the first quarter, with Scott scoring six points. Fudd scored six of St. John’s final second-quarter points before halftime to reduce their deficit to two points.

Forward Taylor Napper’s five third-quarter points, combined with Fudd’s two free throws, tied and gave the Lady Cadets their first lead of the game. However, St. John’s were unable to capitalize on opportunities to expand their small advantage thanks to the Mustangs man-to-man defense.

According to head coach Frank Oliver, the game plan to have Scott guard Fudd and trust the rest of his players to take on St. John’s shooters.
The game plan was effective as St. John’s scored more than half of their points (21) on the free-throw line and convert only one 3-pointer. While Fudd scored a team-high 14 points, most of her damage (8) was at the charity stripe.

“We were committed to our defensive plan to limit them to 10 points a quarter,” Oliver said. “We did in the first quarter and fourth quarter, and the effort was there. All their points came in the free-throw line, and we said if we keep them at the line, we would be okay.”

After a game-tying 3-pointer by Lady Mustangs point guard Yonta Vaughn (12 points), both teams traded the lead multiple times throughout the fourth quarter. King knocked down a quick layup for McNamara with 2:12 remaining to recapture their lead for good. The senior scored a game-high 16 points while Scott added 14 points in the win.

“I think we are mentally ready for this,” Oliver said. “There is something to be said about experience and having been here before. This is our third year in a row in which we will be in a semifinal or final, and we have five seniors who are bringing the young ones along…I believe in this team.”
McNamara will face Paul VI in the championship finals Monday night after the Lady Panthers defeated Bishop O’Connell, 45-29, in the tournament’s second semifinal.

McNamara 13 9 11 13 46
St. John’s 5 15 14 7 41