WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference boys basketball title game between Gonzaga and Paul VI, the Purple Eagles were keenly aware of what was at stake. For the emotional Myles Dread, it was about sending off his seniors the right way. Dread knew the Class of 2017 had a chance to cement their legacy as some of the best to ever walk the halls of Gonzaga with a win.
“I told them at the beginning of the season I wasn’t settling for nothing less,” Dread said. “I told my seniors I love them to death and I was gonna do anything I could for them to get this championship.”
Behind masterful performances from Chris Lykes (game-high 20 points), Myles Dread (15 points) and Prentiss Hubb (11 points), Gonzaga secured its seventh WCAC title, 68-55, at American University. This is the third title win for Coach Steve Turner and second for Dread, Hubb, Lykes and Eddie Scott.
The Purple Eagles and Panthers came to play and provided high level and entertaining play in the first half. Fueled by the energy and level of play on both teams, Hubb in particular fired on all cylinders. After canning a pull-up 3-pointer to make it 5-1 early in the first quarter, Hubb blocked a Miles Latimer layup and then shared a few words his opponent a few possessions later.
“Just trying to get in their head,” Hubb said with a wide smile. “The overall atmosphere of the game just gets me really hyped.”
Early in the second quarter, the PVI student section jeered down the chant “booster seat” at the 5-foot-8 guard Lykes, and in response, the Miami commit hit a contested fadeaway 3-pointer to mute the negative remarks. That was all Gonzaga needed as it built a 15-point cushion when Terrence William hit a turnaround jumper midway into the quarter.
Gonzaga’s defensive effort kept PVI quiet in transition and force the Panthers to operate in the half-court. Leading at halftime, 33-23, Gonzaga didn’t allow itself to get overconfident. They knew they won half the battle just controlling the pace and making life hard for PVI stars Aaron Thompson and Brandon Slater, holding them to five and seven points respectively
“We just executed on defense really well,” Hubb said. “Try our hardest to not let them score and get stops pretty much.”
After witnessing PVI overcome a 10-point deficit to eliminate DeMatha the night before, Gonzaga knew it had to keep its foot on the pedal. In one sequence, senior Mike Myers banged home a 3-pointer and then Hubb flew in for a putback after Myers missed a transition layup to create a 47-23 lead early in the third quarter.
Even as the lead swelled, Gonzaga knew going into the fourth PVI was a team built to overcome the 49-34 lead they fought so hard for.
“We talked about it before the game,” Lykes said “PVI is one of those teams that likes to make late runs. We couldn’t let them get multiple possessions of them scoring that’s how they get their confidence.”
In the final act at Bender Arena, Lykes and Aaron Thompson took over the game with nine-point fourth quarters. Thompson scored at will going to the rim. His three-point play in the opening minutes of the fourth cut the deficit to 50-37, but that was close as PVI got. On the following possession, Lykes hit a euro-step layup that made it 52-37. Lykes sealed the win with a 3-pointer that made it 66-49 with 1:40 left in the game.
After winning his third WCAC championship at Gonzaga and second in three seasons, Turner finally had a moment to put this season in perspective.
“It’s the pinnacle,” Turner said. “For these young men to be able to get their second championship, especially this senior group, I’m just proud of them.”