Back in September, Pat Behan, the head boys basketball coach at St. Johns College High School in Washington, DC was diagnosed with ALS. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS is one of the most crippiling diseases with a five-year survival rate of just 20%. At the age of 34, Behan decided he was going to fight the disease head-on, and BehanStrong was created.
Coach Behan chose to continue coaching through the diagnosis. Led by Syracuse commit Donnie Freeman, the Cadets went on an improbable 15-0 run to start the season, including a win over IMG Academy. Donnie Freeman was dominating game in and game out. Freeman’s stock rose as he continued to have more to play for than just basketball. St Johns became one of the top-ranked teams in the country heading into conference play.
The Cadets play in the WCAC, one of the top high school basketball conferences in the nation. With schools like Gonzaga, PVI, and Dematha, top prospects in the DMV regularly come out of the WCAC. St Johns hadn’t won the conference since 2016. With four, four-stars in its starting lineup, PVI was the overwhelming favorite and top seed heading into the conference tournament. However, after everything that Pat Behan, Donnie Freeman, and the rest of the St Johns team had been through, you knew they would fight.
In the first game of the conference tournament, Behan’s team won a nail-biter against Good Counsel. In the semi-final, against Gonzaga one of the top teams in the country, Donnie Freeman dominated. The power forward scored 17 points in a 54-53 win including the biggest shot of the game, a clutch last-minute three-pointer.
Then, it was time to take on PVI, the number two-ranked team in the country in the finals. In another nail-biter, the Cadets and Donnie Freeman got it done, capturing their first WCAC title since 2016. Freeman had 16 points in the title game.
Scott Van Pelt spent his One Big Thing segment of Sports Center on St John’s incredible season.
The quote from Donnie Freeman that SVP said at the end shows the maturity and fight of the young man who will be playing at Syracuse in a couple of years.
“I can’t describe how much he means to me. This will always be the year that coach was fighting , but we fought with him.He never fought alone.”Donnie Freeman
Behan continues to battle ALS to this day. Recently he was admitted to the ICU at George Washington University Hospital. He was taken off of a ventilator two days ago and the hope is he can return home soon. At the bottom is the link to donate to Behan Strong along with more information.