Down by double-digits early and with their best player in foul trouble, Gonzaga struggled to stay with the DeMatha Stags. But when DeMatha guard Quinn Cook’s three-pointer clanged off the rim with two seconds left, Gonzaga had successfully found a way to topple their top-ranked opponent in overtime, 67-65, on January 29.

In front of 3,500 at American University’s Bender Arena, fifth-ranked Gonzaga (17-4, 8-2) handled a big-time Washington Catholic Athletic Conference match-up by relying on seniors Malcolm Lemmons and Cedrick Lindsey after leading scorer Tyler Thornton picked up two early fouls in the first quarter. DeMatha (19-2, 10-1) silenced the Gonzaga-heavy crowd early by jumping out to a 12-1 lead behind some sweet shooting from the junior Cook.

After an early timeout from Gonzaga, head coach Steve Turner inserted talented freshmen Kris Jenkins and Nate Britt into the lineup, a move that paid off handsomely. Jenkins’ three-point shot and work underneath the basket sparked the crowd and helped Gonzaga head into the half trailing only 28-27.

Lemmons’ 23 points and Lindsey’s 15 points paced Gonzaga until Thornton got going in the final two periods, finishing with nine points. Cook’s 14 points and senior forward Victor Oladipo’s 19 points led DeMatha, but the Stags never recovered after losing their early lead.

A raucous Gonzaga student section kept their team inspired, but it was Lemmons who kept the game within reach. His layup and continuation free throw gave Gonzaga a 59-55 lead with 40 seconds remaining in regulation, but DeMatha went on a 5-1 run to push the game into overtime tied at 60-60.

DeMatha controlled the rebound following a missed Thornton jump shot with the game tied 65-65, and it appeared the contest would either go into a second overtime or be decided by the hot-shooting Cook or Oladipo. But Lindsey had other ideas, stealing the ball and laying it up in the biggest play of the night to give Gonzaga the win and add another chapter to what may be the biggest rivalry in the District.

“Cedrick going and taking that ball out of their hands and going and making the big layup lets you know how much he wanted this game,” Turner said. “We lost to these guys the last time we played them here by one on a last-second shot, so we wanted to perform really well.”

Six of the past eight meetings between the two schools have been decided by three points or less. The two teams will get a chance to get reacquainted on February 22 when Gonzaga visits DeMatha in the last game of the regular season for both schools.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO