American University’s Bender Arena played host to semifinal action of the 22nd annual Washington, D.C. Gonzaga Basketball Classic on Dec. 11, and the action was fast and heavy with four teams vying for a chance to appear in the championship game on Dec. 12.
The Gonzaga Eagles, winners of four consecutive tournaments, rolled into their evening matchup with their minds set on capturing a fifth straight crown, but the host team might not be the favorite at this point.
Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) 55, Holy Cross (Flushing, N.Y.) 41
Sophomore transfer D.J. Fenner has struggled to blend with his new teammates early this season. Fenner, an athletic transfer from Seattle, has been coming off the bench for Gonzaga, but after his performance against the Holy Cross, he may have made himself into a starter.
Fenner scored 13 points off the bench and helped corral Holy Cross star guard Evan Conti in the second half. Conti led Holy Cross with 15 points as his team erased an early 16-2 deficit to slice it to 33-28 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.
With Conti heating up late in the game, Fenner countered with a timely three-pointer and frustrated Conti defensively as Gonzaga stretched their lead back to a comfortable margin. Sophomore staples Nate Britt and Kris Jenkins combined for 25 points, but it was the play of Fenner, who struggled in the opening round on Dec. 10, which carried the team late in the game.
“My father gave me a pep talk,” Fenner revealed. “He basically told me `You love the game of basketball and you just got to go out there and play.’ I’m still finding my way in but today I felt much more comfortable out there on the floor.”
Gonzaga will need Fenner to be at his best again as the team prepares play their toughest opponent of the early season for the tournament championship on Dec. 12.
Charlotte Christian (Charlotte, N.C.) 69, St. Raymond (Bronx, N.Y.) 53
Continuing their run as the tournament’s most impressive squad, the Charlotte Christian Knights disposed of the St. Raymond Ravens to advance to their first ever Gonzaga Classic final.
Charlotte jumped out to a 38-18 halftime lead, led by star forward Anthony Gill’s 11 first half points. They stretched their lead to 27 points late in the fourth before St. Raymond tightened the score behind junior guard Daniel Dingle’s 22 points. St. Raymond’s team is talented, which makes Charlotte Christian’s semifinal statement even that much more impressive. Charlotte Christian has proven to be the deepest and most talented team over the tournament’s first two days and will provide a tough test for Gonzaga in the championship game.