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Since walking through the doors of Thomas Stone High School, head boys basketball coach Dale Lamberth has brought out the best in his players year after year with a special system of teaching fundamentals, life lessons and gaining mental toughness.

Over the years, Lamberth’s Stone teams have been some of the toughest teams to play in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, the region and around the state.

Lamberth, who has led the Cougars to four regional titles in five seasons — two in the Class 4A East Region and two in the 3A South — recently earned his 300th career win after a 71-47 rout of visiting Huntingtown.

“I give credit to my coaching staff that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years,” said Lamberth, whose team was a 3A state finalist last season and a 4A finalist in 2008. “What we’ve accomplished was through putting the players first, and we did it with class and integrity. It was an honor to work with the finest and skilled players around.

This season, Stone is 15-7 overall and finished runner-up in SMAC with a record of 10-2.

The Cougars earned the No. 2 seed in the 3A South Region playoffs and will host seventh-seeded Northern at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

“We still have some unfinished business to do; we are trying to peak in the playoffs,” Lamberth said. “It’s been all about the dedication to the players and our vision with each team. This group is very special; I enjoy coaching them.”

Lamberth earned win No. 301 on Feb. 13 in a 90-59 home victory on senior night over Great Mills. He was honored with the 300-win basketball, which parents, players and friends signed to give their congratulations to the long-time coach.

“I had no idea this would even happen. When I first got here, I heard so much of how coach [the late head coach] Steve Datcher was a legend and had a winning program,” said Lamberth, now in his 13th season with the program. “He was a great coach and a role model, and I just wanted to keep the tradition going.”

After the senior night game, the staff, parents and team celebrated Lamberth’s special milestone; players and coaches gave remarks on how he’s helped the program groom.

“I’ve learned so much from Coach Dale; he’s always tough on me and has pushed me to be the player that I am today,” said Stone senior guard Michael Briscoe, SMAC’s leading scorer at 19.5 points a game. “I was happy that he won 300; he definitely deserves it, and he does well in getting the kids to believe in the system.”

Before arriving at Stone, Lamberth coached 13 seasons at Montgomery Blair High School, where he was the frontrunner for seven seasons and the assistant for six.

“There were some great coaches; I didn’t do it myself,” Lamberth said. “All the weight wasn’t on my shoulders; they did a great job of preparing the kids to play. I have former players and coaches that I worked with that still keep in contact with me to this day.”

When asked what the best moment during his 13 years at Stone was, Lamberth said winning the first-ever 4A East Region title in 2008 and leading the team to the state championship game where they fell to Montgomery County powerhouse Springbrook that season.

“No one expected us to go that far. That group was special with Rodney Clark, Malcolm Willis and [the late] Brandon Carroll,” the Stone coach said. The 2007 team was also great, but 2008 definitely opened up the floodgates for the program.”

With only one starter back from last season’s 3A state finalist squad in Briscoe, Lamberth has his sights set on making another push in the region and possibly even the state.

One thing is for sure: Lamberth will continue to enjoy the moment of keeping the Stone tradition alive.