St. John’s Stuns Defending WCAC Champs DeMatha

Darius Maddox told me post game ” odds against us I just knew we were gonna go out there and fight,” with Ish Leggett adding ” It’s that simple.” SJC is coming in primed with confidence and playing some great basketball ahead of tomorrow’s WCAC chip’ game

WASHINGTON D.C. – The WCAC descended once again on American University for their annual playoff to determine their conference champion this past weekend. After a long regular season, the final four teams remaining were DeMatha Catholic High School, Paul VI Catholic High School, Gonzaga College High School, and St. John’s College High School. The winners of these two games will advance to play for the championship on Monday.

The first game went down between number 1 seed of the tournament DeMatha, also the defending WCAC champs, and number 5 seed St. John’s. The Cadets secured the first spot in the WCAC championship game, upsetting the Stags 53-52. Forward Earl Timberlake led all scorers with 19 poins, and guard Justin Moore followed up with 15 points of his own. Guard Casey Morsell led three double-digit performance with 16 points, while Darius Maddox and Ishmael Leggett contributed with 12 points apiece.

“Definitely just coming out with energy, just coming out ready to kill,” Maddox said, “When I’m down then Ish is up, so we always got someone coming. Then when we’re both down then Casey is up so you never knew where it’s coming from.”

From the onset, the Cadets were able to throw the first punch. St. John’s was often the more physical squad, and made sure to force contested rebounds, catches, and shots. According to junior wings Darius Maddox and Ishmael Leggett, the Cadets took pride in being the underdog and coming out to fight, not just taking a punch to the mouth but landing frequent counters as well. The game was close throughout the contest, the largest lead of the night was the Stags by six, while the Cadets lead by a 4-point margin. The Cadets were able to grab the lead three times in the fourth quarter, after a Morsell layup to make it 41-40, and then off a forward Jalin Abbott 3-pointer off a Morsell pass in the pick-and-roll. The Stags responded swifty and took the lead off a Timberlake tip-in. The Cadets then reeled off a 7-0 run and grabbed a 51-47 lead they would not surrender when Maddox converted on an and-1 over center Hunter Dickinson. Timberlake cut the lead too 53-52 with a 3-pointer at the top of the key, responding to a  Morsell pull-up jumper from the free throw line. SJC had two chances to ice the game with less 30 seconds remaining with both Morsell and Abbott at the free throw line but both the seniors missed the front end of a one-in-one opportunity. DeMatha had one last chance to win the game, getting the ball to Moore who drove strong to the rim but Morsell leaped high in the air and swatted the would-be attempt way, sending Bender Arena in a frenzy and making sure a new champ would be crowned.

“We knew (Moore) was going to it,” Morsell said, “ We tried to make it as hard for him as possible, if he was going to shoot it, make him shoot going left. He’s shooting a way lower percentage going left than right. Forced him to my help side, I knew he was not going to pass it so that is why I went up to get it.”  

“Just a (wave) of happiness,” Leggett said, ” We been struggling throughout the season and all that hard work paid off that nobody saw it showed on the court today.”

Baltimore Poly Takes St. John’s Down In Epic Thriller

Washington D.C. ~ Simply heartbreak. That was what Baltimore Polytechnic came in to deliver during their trip to the nations capital. The Engineers were already playing with something to prove, fully aware of the perception that Baltimore players do not stack up to the elite talent that the Washington D.C. metropolitan produces. The Engineers knew that a capturing signature win over a top 50 program like St. John’s College High School would make a very loud statement. The type of statement that can put Baltimore on the map as a hoops hotbed.

“This was for Baltimore,” Poly head coach Sam Brand said, “We heard a lot of talk about how Baltimore teams can’t compete down here and we know that we can. We embraced the opportunity to do so.”

The Engineers prevailed in overtime, 59-58, in the main event of the More Than Basketball St. John’s Invitational. Justin Lewis scored 16-points and grabbed 14 rebounds, while Rahim Ali scored 15-points, dished a pair of assists, and grabbed six rebounds. The Cadets were led by a 20-point performance by Casey Morsell. Jalin Abbott and Ishmael Leggett joined Morsell in double-figures with 14 and 13

points respectively.

” We came in the game with a chip on our shoulder,” Ali said, “They’re a top-50 team in the country and that’s where we want to be.”

Through each bucket exchanged and every bit of trash talk spoken neither the Engineers nor the Cadets allowed themselves to lie down without a fight. That competitiveness and desire to win helped the Cadets erase an 11-point deficit on the strength of a 14-5 run in the third quarter that culminated in a 40-all tie after a Devon Dunn spin layup in transition. After a scoring drought that lasted nearly three minutes, Casey Morsell went on a personal 5-0 run to end the quarter to grab a 44-43 lead heading into the final frame. From there the Cadets would be lead by as much as five before the Engineers took the lead back when Justin Lewis sank a pair of free throws to create a one-point lead in the waning minutes of the game. Jalin Abbott than forced a Poly timeout when he hit a dagger 3-pointer to give his Cadets squad a 54-51 lead. Ali responded when he went the full length of the court and sank a sidestep 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of Morsell to force an extra period.

The overtime period provided some more fireworks from two proud programs. Ian Wallace scorched the nets late with a 3-pointer for a 57-56 lead, seemingly burying the Cadets after Morsell missed on a contested jumper, and John Wilson turned the ball after stepping out of bounds on the baseline. Poly than gave St. John’s after Lewis turned the ball over trying to inbound the ball and inadvertently set up the thrilling final sequence after Morsell scored on a tough layup with the clock dwindling down fast. Ali would coolly go the length of the full-court with untouched before hop-stepping and sinking a reverse layup to win the game.

“I just had to feed off my team,” Ali said, ” I had to know when to go and when to feed my team. I had to feed Justin (because) he was cooking. When they started double-teaming him I knew more was going to be open for me so I just took the shots that were open.