There isn’t any love lost between Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) powers the DeMatha Stags and the Gonzaga Eagles. So fittingly, on Feb. 13th the day before St. Valentine’s Day, the two schools gathered to exchange pleasantries at Washington, D.C.’s Gallaudet University.

Games between the two schools typically draw enough of a crowd to surpass the home gymnasium capacities of both programs and their latest clash wasn’t any different. In front of an energetic audience of nearly 2,000, the D.C.-based Eagles survived a late DeMatha run to hold on for a 62-52 victory.

A 15-7 second quarter allowed Gonzaga to take a nine-point lead into halftime over DeMatha and the second-half run saw the margin swell to as much as 37-24. But as expected DeMatha, the Hyattsville, Md. private school, made a run to even things up. DeMatha, ranked seventh in the area by The Washington Post, slowly chipped away at the Eagles’ lead as the third quarter’s final minutes ticked off, shortening the score to 43-38 before the start of the final quarter.

DeMatha took a late lead on a dunk by sophomore center BeeJay Anya to make it 45-44, sending the DeMatha faithful into a frenzy. But No. 4 Gonzaga would respond, courtesy of a clutch three pointer from sophomore point guard Nate Britt that put them back in control for good.

“We were up early and DeMatha made their run and got back the lead Nate (Britt) hit the big three to get us back on our end,” said Gonzaga coach Steve Turner.

Turner made sure to preach rebounding to his team in between timeouts as their lead whittled away. With a towering front court of players measuring six feet, seven inches and taller, DeMatha is one of the city’s biggest teams, but Gonzaga made sure to stick to their game plan.

“Coach was just telling us to keep our composure the whole time,” sophomore forward Kris Jenkins said. “We knew they were going to make a run, it was just a matter of when. We responded well and got the win.”

“We wanted to make them shoot outside shots and keep them out the lane because they’re a big team,” Jenkins said. “We wanted to box them out and keep them off the boards because they get a lot of put-backs and we were able to do that for the most part tonight.”

The victory officially puts Gonzaga (20-5, 12-3) at the top of the WCAC, a half-game ahead of DeMatha (19-6, 11-3). Both teams will meet again on Feb. 20 at DeMatha High School.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO