WASHINGTON D.C. – 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.
After a stunning () the crowd at AU was clamoring for the second game between no. 2 seed PVI and no. 3 seed Gonzaga. Gonzaga pulled off the second upset of the day, prevailing 63-55 and have the right to face off against SJC for the conference crowd. Junior Chuck Harris scored a game-high 17 points and handed out three assists, followed up by double-digit performances by forward Myles Stute(14 points and 12 rebounds), freshman Devin Dinkins (12 points), and senior Anwar Gill (10 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds). Freshman point guard Knasir “Dug” Williams led PVI with 12 points, while wing Josiah Freeman and sophomore Avery Ford each contributed 11 points.
“For our kids to gut out, we were down what, (13)? 13-point comeback to win against one of the best teams in the league all year,” Gonzaga head coach Stephen Turner said, “I’m just proud for them and their opportunity to go out tomorrow night and have a chance to bring home a championship.”
In any conference, it’s hard to beat any team three times in a row. In a conference like the WCAC, widely regarded as the best high school basketball conference in the country, it’s nearly impossible. However, PVI seemed like they would scoff at that notion, building a 13 point edge by the end of the half behind a balanced offensive onslaught, sophomores Avery Ford and Trevor Keels dominated with 16 points at the half, relying on the physical drives of Keels and finesse of Ford to build their lead. A 3-2 zone that Gonzaga had trouble adjusting too also played a large roll in forcing the Purple Eagles were unable to execute as they traditionally do and the Panthers to walk into the half up 35-22.
That all changed in the second half when Gonzaga was able to neutralize the threat of Keels and forced everybody else to make plays. The revitalized defensive effort by Gonzaga forced PVI into scoring just 18 points the rest of the way. The Purple Eagles patiently chipped away at the deficit, being able to whittle down the lead to four by the end of the third quarter. By midway into the final frame, Gonzaga knotted the game up, 46-all, when Chuck Harris fed Dinkins on the left wing for a 3-pointer. That was the impetus to a 10-run that ended with three straight trips to the free throw line for Stute as he fought off PVI wings and forwards for several rebounds. The gritty sequence by the junior provoked a smirk and flex moment as he soaked in cheers from the Gonzaga student section.
“Just felt good,” Stute said, “I was in my rhythm, affecting the game in different ways other than scoring, getting rebounds, getting to the line. When I got to the line, I knew I had to convert.”
PVI wasn’t done however, they went off on a 7-0 run and cut the Purple Eagles, 56-55, after Freeman nailed 3-pointer. That would be as close as PVI would get, Gonzaga ended the fourth quarter on an 8-0 run that ended all doubts for the Panthers. Harris finished a pair of three-point plays, smiling and letting out a loud “Let’s Go” after converting the second and-1. Forward Terrance Williams shot the final free throws of the game and secured the improbable Gonzaga win.
“ We just came out and played our hardest from the jump,” Harris said, “ We knew PVI was going to be a tough opponent and just had the best of them tonight.”