The annual Washington, D.C. Gonzaga Basketball Classic opened its doors for a 22nd season on Dec. 10, welcoming four schools from around the East Coast as well as four local programs.

Hosted at Gonzaga High School, the tournament will move to D.C.’s American University for the remaining action on Dec. 11 and Dec. 12.

Holy Cross (Flushing, N.Y.) 69, Chantilly (Chantilly, Va.) 62

Led by impressive guard Evan Conti, the Holy Cross Knights took an early lead over the Chantilly Chargers and never looked back. Conti, a senior, scored a game-high 26 points, nailing three three-pointers and helping fight off a second half comeback attempt from the favored Chargers in the opening game. Chantilly center John Manning impressed the local scouts with an effective post game that’s rare for high school players. Manning, a senior, scored 14 points and often was the only source of offense for a struggling Chantilly team.

Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 51, St. Johns (Shrewsbury, Mass.) 39

Eager to show off a revamped lineup, Gonzaga coach Steve Turner unveiled his 2010 Eagles to a packed crowd that cheered the home team’s every dribble. Gonzaga, winners of four consecutive tournaments, leaned on sophomore sensations Nate Britt and Kris Jenkins, who combined for 23 points to help Gonzaga cruise past an undermanned St. Johns club. “They’re special,” Turner said after the game. “They have a chance to do some great things before they leave Gonzaga and certainly afterwards with their basketball careers.”

Britt, the starting point guard, was especially effective, knocking down open shots and running the team with poise and confidence. Filling a reserve role last season as a freshman, he has arrived as the lead man on a young Eagles team. “I got to step up and be the leader on the team,” Britt said. “I feel as though I’m a playmaker and I can make plays on the court. It’s been a tough adjustment but I’m definitely glad about making the adjustment. It’s been a work in progress.”

Britt took over the scoring load in the first half with Jenkins in foul trouble. When Jenkins returned to the game late in the third quarter after picking up his third foul, the 6-foot, 5-inch forward went to work, finishing the third quarter with five consecutive points and stretching Gonzaga’s lead to 34-20 at the end of the quarter.

Gonzaga and Holy Cross will face off in a championship semifinal game on Dec. 11.

Charlotte Christian (Charlotte, N.C.) 56, Mount Saint Joseph (Baltimore, Md.) 46

Easily the most impressive team of the day, the Charlotte Christian Knights dispatched Baltimore’s St. Joseph Gaels in quick fashion. Stacked with an array of shooters and the athletic 6-foot, 8-inch forward Anthony Gill, a senior who totaled a game-high 11 points, Charlotte Christian put on a fast break, three-point shooting display that helped open up a 50-32 lead with 2:53 left in the game. Mount Saint Joseph made a late run, but the damage was already done. Flanked by a trio of impressive senior guards in Trent Walker, Worth Smith and Andrew Frowine, Charlotte Christian has the look of a team that can seriously challenge Gonzaga’s four-year winning streak.

St. Raymond (Bronx, N.Y.) 63, Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) 54

Ball handling and balanced scoring, that’s what onlookers took away from the St. Raymond Ravens’ performance on Dec. 10. With big men who can handle the ball in the open court, St. Raymond is a dangerous outfit that can get into a fast break at any moment, Something the Good Counsel Falcons found out the hard way. St. Raymond led 20-10 at the end of the first quarter and was never really challenged until Good Counsel made a run in the fourth quarter. An athletic bunch that works well playing with each other, St. Raymond will square off with Charlotte Christian in a championship semifinal game on Dec. 11.
 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO