There was still 2.8 seconds left on the scoreboard, but Cedrick Lindsay was already hanging his head. The Gonzaga guard had just missed two free throws that could’ve sealed the game and with his team now trailing, 67-66, the senior couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Just to compound things, Lindsay’s team was playing its long-time rival, DeMatha, in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament (ACIT) championship game and the Stags had won their previous two meetings over Gonzaga.

But Lindsay’s head didn’t hang for long. Before a packed gymnasium at Frostburg State University, the Richmond-bound guard took the inbounds pass to the three-point line before being fouled on a desperation shot with five seconds remaining. Despite the controversial call, he swished his first two free-throws before intentionally missing the last to give Gonzaga a 68-67 win and their third consecutive ACIT title on March 20.

“To be honest I was kicking myself,” Lindsay said about his late misses. “A lot of players don’t get a second chance I got one today.”

A second chance was something Gonzaga (28-6 overall record) was hoping for after DeMatha (32-4 overall) ran through them, 71-52, in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship on March 8. It was a poor showing from Gonzaga’s senior-laden team and with a trip to the City Title game on the line, the Eagles played their worse game of the season. DeMatha then went on to claim their second consecutive City Title by beating Ballou High School, 80-70, at the Verizon Center.

So with a chance to claim another ACIT crown and stick it to DeMatha one last time before graduation, Lindsay and the rest of his teammates couldn’t help but to oblige.
“To me it was more about revenging our loss,” Lindsay admitted. “To leave our high school career the way we did in the championship game, it wasn’t a good feeling and we knew we had to come out here and we had to revenge it and that’s what we did today.”

In the 50th annual ACIT, both Gonzaga and DeMatha battled to the finish as expected. It was the fourth meeting between the schools this season but their rivalry never gets old; it just gets better with each game. DeMatha’s Quinn Cook and Victor Oladipo continued their season-long highlight tape with a pair of strong performances. Cook’s 17 points led all scorers while the ultra-athletic Oladipo chipped in with 10 rebounds and 14 points. 

But even DeMatha’s dynamic duo had to take a backseat to Lindsay, 14 points, and his senior running mate Tyler Thornton, 13 points. The Duke-bound Thornton closed his Eagles career in fine fashion, collecting five rebounds, three assists, two blocks and four steals to go along with his steady poise and leadership throughout the game.

“Not a lot of people get to say they’ve won one of these tournaments so to get to win three I feel honored and I feel blessed to have the teammates and the coaches that we have,” Thornton said. “To have it against DeMatha, that’s our biggest rival and the last game of my career, no better way to go out.”

Thornton, Lindsay and the rest of their teammates were just 2.8 seconds away from going out and ending their careers the wrong way. After DeMatha’s Cook drew a foul with the Stags trailing 66-65, his two free throws appeared to put DeMatha ahead for good. With less than three seconds remaining and having to go the length of the court just to get a shot off, the situation seemed nearly impossible. But Gonzaga head coach Steve Turner never stopped believing and after he called a timeout to draw up one last play, he knew Lindsay was the perfect player to transfer that confidence to. 

“I looked him in his eyes and said, ‘Look at me; you’re getting ready to make the winning shot, get your head up and let’s get ready’ and put the ball in his hands and he did it.”

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO