When DeMatha High School erected its new Convocation Center last March, the Hyattsville, Md. school envisioned the site hosting large crowds and big games. The crowd, or the game, couldn’t get any bigger than it was for top-ranked DeMatha’s showdown with the fourth-ranked McNamara Mustangs of Forestville, Md on Jan. 6.
In front of a standing-room only crowd, the DeMatha Stags (12-0) disposed of McNamara (12-2) in impressive fashion, 64-53. DeMatha went on a 14-2 run to open the game and closed with an 11-5 run to hold off the undersized, but pesky McNamara.
With a large portion of the crowd cheering them on, McNamara battled back to make the score 16-12 at the top of the second quarter before DeMatha pushed their lead back to 10 points with a 32-22 halftime cushion. Whenever things got tight for DeMatha, the team dumped the ball down inside to a towering front court. With a starting frontcourt trio of players between 6-feet, 7-inches and 6-feet, 9 inches tall, DeMatha controlled the rebounds and the paint for most of the night.
DeMatha kept up the pace coming out of halftime but McNamara wouldn’t let them escape. Behind star senior guard Marcus Thornton, McNamara closed to within 53-48 midway through the final quarter, but junior forward Jerami Grant helped close out the game with a key block of Thornton and a three-point play.
McNamara’s speedy squad has outraced teams throughout the early part of the season, but without a player taller than 6-feet, 5-inches in their rotation, they had no answer for the taller DeMatha team.
“They’re definitely a bigger team with Grant, Mikael (Hopkins) and Beejay (Anya), but it’s no excuses,” said Thornton, who led all scorers with 22 points. “We still got to do what we have to do and get a body on a body and box out.”
“The height advantage gets negated by how hard McNamara played,” said DeMatha coach Mike Jones. “I’m very proud of the effort we put forward but if it was all about being taller than it wouldn’t have been a game and McNamara played extremely hard.”
After being outscored in the first quarter 16-5, McNamara drew even with DeMatha 48-48 the rest of the way. The slow start hurt McNamara in the end however, a fact their players recognized immediately following the game.
“You just have games like that,” said McNamara senior point guard Ibn Muhammad. “You come out slow some times. They jumped on us they kept the pedal on. We tried to make our run they stopped us.”