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.”

DeMatha Outlasts Gonzaga

Hyattsville ~ For the first time since the 2018 WCAC championship, DeMatha and Gonzaga, two proud teams with plenty of rich tradition and history met for the first time this season. For Gonzaga, it was a chance to exact some revenge and gain a little redemption from last years defeat. The storyline for DeMatha -ad the defending championship team was letting everyone know that the conference runs through them. 

“Just try to come and make a statement,” Jahmir Young said, “We know we gotta (target) on our back so we gotta come ready to play.”

DeMatha reigned supreme over Gonzaga,62-58, in arguably the fiercest rivalry in the WCAC. The Stags relied on balance offensively with four players scoring in double-figures. Justin Moore led the way with 13-points, Jahmir Young and Earl Timberlake had 12-points apiece, and Hunter Dickinson dropped 11-points of his own. The Purple Eagles also had a trio of double-digit performers on their side. Anwar Gill and Myles Stute tied for team lead with 11-points, while Josh Watt flanked them with 10-points of his own. 

“We pride ourselves (on) being team guys and making sure everyone gets part of the share,” Moore said, “When we move the ball, and play together we’re a hard team to stop.”

After a free flowing first quarter where DeMatha and Gonzaga combined for 47 points, the two teams knew they had to settle in defensively. Getting a bucket was increasingly difficult the rest of the way during the decidedly defensive slugfest. For the Eagles, big man Terrance William (nine-points) was in foul trouble, forcing Gonzaga head coach Steve Turner to play with lineups that found it difficult to score the ball. The offensive futility was exasperated while DeMatha went on a 9-0 run, highlighted by a Earl Timberlake block on Stute and a forced shot-clock violations. Gonzaga was nearly blanked in the second quarter until Anwar Gill gathered an offensive rebound and laid it up to make it 33-27. Josh Watts then hit a 3-pointer off a John Marshall feed, and on the ensuing possession popped a trey of his own to make it a 36-33 game at the half.

“No defense in the first quarter though that was awful,” Stags head coach Mike Jones said candidly, “That was awful on both sides. 25-22 at a DeMatha-Gonzaga game? That never happens. 

Heading into the final frame after a back-and-forth third quarter, the Stags and Eagles were primed for a scintillating finish. After Stute gave Gonzaga a one-point edge after knocking down a pair of free throws, the Stags responded with a decisive an 8-0 run. Punctuated by a sequence where Carsten Kogelnik splashed home a 3-pointer, Justin Moore drew a charge on the subsequent possession, then Earl Timberlake capped it off with an up-and-under layup and gave the Stags a 54-46 lead they wouldn’t give up. With under 40 seconds to go, Turner decided to play the game straight up trying to avoid sending anybody to the line before Moore converted both free throws on his second trip to the line to give the Stags a 60-55 lead. The strategy shaved 14 seconds off the clock. The Eagles responded when freshman Devin Dinkins cashed a 3-ball off a dish from Stute to make it a 60-58 lead. That would be as close as the Eagles got, as Timberlake iced the game away with a pair of free throws to make up the final four-point deficit. 

“We’ve been doing a good job all year of just staying composed,” Moore said “We gotta do a (better) job of finishing games. We’ll get a lead up and we keep letting them come back and come back so we gotta put them away earlier.”

DeMatha Silences Wilson In Overtime Thriller

ICYMI: Technical Difficulties have been resolved! Click the link and read more about the the controversial overtime classic that went down at Madison Ave Saturday night

Photo Credits Courtesy of The Hop Media

Hyattsville ~ Finally! After three days we now have a DeMatha Christmas Tournament champion. Not only that, we have a true champion bearer of DMV hoops. Speculation of who would win a game between DeMatha and Wilson was finally answered Saturday night.

“That was just a great game,” Stags coach Mike Jones said, “It was ugly, the referees let us play. Ultimately we had the ball last and thats, I think why we were successful.”

The Stags extinguished the Tigers, 56-54, in a thrilling overtime victory that ended on a controversial buzzer-beater from Earl Timberlake. Timberlake led all scorers with 18-points and a number of jaw-dropping blocksHunter Dickinson joined him in double-digits with 17-points. Makhi Mitchell led Wilson with a 13-point performance.

“We been playing against each other since we were kids,” Timberlake said, “They’ve always been good as a friendly rival.”

The sellout crowd on provided the ideal background for the game. Fans from all over the Washington D.C. metropolitan area traveled to Madison Avenue just to see these two champions play. Funny enough, it seemed like the crowd was split mainly between the Tigers and Timberlake, whom lives and grew up in the city himself. The game itself was fast-paced and physical. Neither team giving an inch to the other, bodies flying and falling on the floor like it was a 90’s NBA playoff game. Back-and-forth they went when Jay Heath hit a floater, DeMatha fed Dickinson on the right block and let him go to work. In fact, that hook shot led to a 9-2 run, giving the Stags a 20-15 lead going into the second quarter. The Stags entered the second half up 27-24, after Carlos Dunn’s double-clutch layup to end the half. Midway through the third quarter, Heath drove to the rim for an and-1 opportunity and had a chance to make tie the game at 33, but missed the subsequent free throw. Romaro Hutchinson tied the game up at 37-all when he knocked down a 3-pointer after a feed from Mekhi Mithcell. Hunter Dickinson responded with a hook shot from the right block to give the Stags a one-possession lead going into the fourth and final quarter.

It was in the final frame that Wilson finally took the momentum on a 9-0 run, highlighted by Dimingus Stevens’ back-to-back 3-pointers, including finishing a 4-point play over Justin Moore. Mekhi Mitchell than gave Wilson a 49-48 lead to give the Tigers their first lead of the game. Justin Moore had a chance to give the Stags a one-point lead but bricked the first free throw and then sunk the other one for just a 49-all tie. Heath’s ensuing fadeaway against Dickinson fell well short and forced overtime.

In the decisive overtime period, Wilson had to go at it without the Mitchell twins, M Makhel being disqualified at the 2:13 mark and Makhi leaving at 24.3 seconds. Nonetheless, the Tigers took the lead after back-to-back buckets from Zaakir Williamson gave Wilson a 54-50 lead. Dickinson, ever a consistent offensive hub, dropped another hook shot and then Jahmir Young sunk both his field trip to tie the game up. On their final possession, Jay Heath drove to the rim but lost the ball on the way up, giving DeMatha the ball with 24.9 ticks left. That’s when Earl Timberlake worked his magic and hit a fadeaway over Dimingus Stevens.

“We knew it was going to be one the top games in the DMV,” Timberlake said, “We just tried to use our heads and play tough.”

Despite the controversy of the game-winning shot going up in time or not, we would be remiss as media and basketball fans alike to say this contest won’t go down as a classic. Wilson’s next game will be against Ballou on January 4, while DeMatha goes up against Good Council on the same day.

A Very Merry DeMatha Christmas Tournament:

Day 1 of the DeMatha Christmas Tournament has come and gone. The four games slated were played by Baltimore Poly and Granby, Wilson and Rock Creek Christian, host DeMatha and Riverdale Baptist, and finally JL Mann vs Bowie. The Hop only covered Poly vs Granby and Wilson vs Rock Creek Christian. 

Poly vs Granby:

The Baltimore City powerhouse continues to perform on the biggest stages and finish well in the late stages. The Engineers put on a defensive clinic, blocking five shots, collecting eight steals on 13 total turnovers, including forcing a pair of shot-clock violations in both halves. Poly created separation midway through the second quarter when they went on a 10-0 run, making it 27-17 before Jeriah Sweat finished a 3-point play. Granby got to within 34-33 when Sweat hit back-to-back layups in the third quarter but that was close as they would get to grabbing control. The Engineers would finish the fourth quarter with a 13-3 run highlighted by a thunderous Lewis slam to make it 51-42.

Justin Lewis led Poly with 23 points, 14 rebounds, 3 steals, and 5 steals in a true stat-sheet stuffing outing. Jayden Epps scored 23 of his own

Wilson vs Rock Creek Christian

The Tigers came into this contest ready to flex their signature electric athleticism out once again at the DeMatha basketball court. The plethora of dunks and sweet shooting from Wilson provided some worthwhile entertainment for the growing crowd on Madison Avenue. The Rock Creek Christian was willing to meet physicality and toughness with Wilson but we’re unable to hang after the first quarter. Simply being overpowered as far as shot-making is the only way to way to describe it. James Gross nearly gave his RCCA teammates a major boost when he attempted to posterized Mahkel Mitchell in transition but the attempt was too strong. 

 Delonnie Hunt was the only true threat with 17 points, but Hunt was battling an ankle injury suffered last week in a game against St. John’s. Mitchell led the Tigers with a game-high 18 points, joined by Jay Heath and brother   Makhi in double digits with 16 and 15 points respectively.