Little compares to the intensity of a high-school basketball rivalry: cheerleaders, students, parents, teachers, and alumni screaming along with sneakers screeching, whistles blowing, and balls smacking the floor. The fiercest rivalries often are between schools in the same community, whose students are going for bragging rights. Even if you don’t know any players, taking in the scene can be fun. Here are matchups where the level of play and excitement are high.
When Joe Wootten—son of Morgan Wootten, legendary retired coach of Hyattsville’s DeMatha Catholic High School—took over as head boys’ coach at Arlington’s Bishop O’Connell High School in 1999, the rivalry between DeMatha and O’Connell went from fierce to fanatical. This year’s games promise even more emotion: In October, Joe saved his father’s life by donating a kidney for transplant. Game days: February 4 at O’Connell (6600 Little Falls Rd.; 703-237-1400); February 13 at DeMatha (4313 Madison St.; 240-764-2200).
Most years, Rockville’s Magruder and Silver Spring’s Springbrook are at the top of Montgomery County’s 4A boys’ league. Even regular-season contests have a playoff feel. January 3 at Springbrook (201 Valley Brook Dr., Silver Spring; 301-989-5700); January 30 at Magruder (5939 Muncaster Mill Rd., Rockville; 301-840-4600).
Fairfax County’s Oakton and Westfield high schools have taken turns winning the girls’ AAA Concorde District championships. Watch for Oakton senior Jasmine Thomas, who has signed with Duke for next year. December 19 at Westfield (4700 Stonecroft Blvd., Chantilly; 703-488-6300); January 19 at Oakton (2900 Sutton Rd., Vienna; 703-319-2700).
A match of Northern Virginia powers Herndon and South Lakes high schools can draw more than 1,000 fans. December 15 at South Lakes (11400 South Lakes Dr., Reston; 703-715-4500).
Every season, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference produces some of the strongest girls’ basketball teams. St. John’s College High School, Bishop McNamara, and Our Lady of Good Counsel are always among top contenders, creating a tough, three-way league rivalry. Here are those teams’ first meetings this season: January 9, Bishop McNamara at Good Counsel (11601 Georgia Ave., Wheaton; 301-942-1155); January 12, St. John’s at Bishop McNamara (6800 Marlboro Pike, Forestville; 301-735-8401); February 13, St. John’s at Good Counsel.