The first day of the 50th annual Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament (ACIT) was highlighted by a few convincing blowouts, but the second day offered some competitive, down-to-the-wire action.

The two best teams from the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), DeMatha and Gonzaga, won their semifinal games and will meet for the fourth time this season on March 20 in the ACIT Championship in Frostburg, Md.

Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) vs. Mount St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md.) 74-67

The Gonzaga Eagles (27-6) knocked down clutch free throws in the waning minutes of the game to hold off a strong performance by Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year Eric Atkins, who scored 27 points for Mount St. Joseph.

Atkins and Gonzaga’s Tyler Thornton got tangled up early in the third quarter, and Thornton was sent to the bench after being called for his third foul. After Thornton returned early in the fourth quarter, the Duke-bound point guard was all business, punishing defenders in the low post and scoring a team-high 20 points in the game.

Thornton’s displayed his leadership skills as he kept his composure despite getting into foul trouble. He had a pair of three-point plays late in the fourth quarter that allowed Gonzaga to restore their lead to double figures after Mount St. Joseph (31-5) cut a 10-point deficit to just two points in the middle of the fourth quarter.

With the win, Gonzaga advanced to their third consecutive ACIT Championship game and will look to even their season series with DeMatha at two games apiece, after losing the last two meetings to their WCAC rival.

DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md.) vs. Benedictine High School (Richmond, Va.) 66-54

The DeMatha Stags are big, fast and athletic, but the Benedictine Cadets hung tough through four quarters against the Washington, D.C. city champions.

DeMatha’s Victor Oladipo several highlight-reel plays and his 20 points paved the way for the team to capture its third title in as many weeks. DeMatha (32-3) has already collected both the WCAC and D.C. city titles this season, and appear to be focused on breaking Gonzaga’s two-year hold on the ACIT championship.

Mike Gbinije led Benedictine (24-8) with 19 points, but DeMatha’s Quinn Cook countered with his own 19-point outing, including a few deep three-pointers that took the air out of any run that Benedictine tried to make.

The Duke-bound Gbinije was impressive for the second consecutive day of the ACIT and the 6-foot, 7-inch junior may be the most complete player in the tournament. Gbinije can shoot from deep, score off the dribble and is active on defense.

DeMatha is scheduled to face Gonzaga for the ACIT championship on March 20 at 8:15 p.m.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO