Friday, February 27, 2015

DMV Preps: WCAC Champs Gonzaga's Purple Reign

WASHINGTON, DC – The worlds of two programs collided in WCAC Championship game last night at American University’s Bender Arena.  To add to the drama the sold out atmosphere in the gym was coupled with a lobby full of fans who refused to leave in the hopes of gaining entry to one of the best games of the year in the DMV.  

The 2nd Ranked Stags of Dematha (24-7) facing the #7 Purple Eagles of Gonzaga (21-10) had already taken two from their Washington DC counterpart earlier in the year in two very competitive games.  The WCAC Championship game was no different and frankly may have been the best of them all; not just in their match-ups but arguable in all the match-ups in the WCAC this season.

From the onset no one could establish control as both ran solid offense and established defensive patterns that kept the game close; exemplified by the knotted 16-16 score at the end of the 1st quarter.  It was much of the same in the 2nd quarter as the back and forth battle end at the half with Gonzaga up a bucket 31-29.  Not to overlook any aspect of the game as the players performed and the Coaches operated their chess match in unison.  Oddly Dematha spent the entire half-time in the locker-room game planning for the stretch run and didn’t take a single warm-up shot prior to the start of the 3rd.

 The extra chalk talk worked marvelously as the Stags open with an 8-0 run which included some very impressive plays at the rim from 6’7 DJ Harvey.  The run looked like it may be the difference in the game as they used it to put the Eagles into a 13-point deficit halfway through the 3rd.  Relying on the experience of Coach Steve Turner the players all echoed the fact that Turner continued to stress calmness in the midst of this challenging time.

Bryant Crawford (Wake Forest commit) who didn’t dazzle on the stat sheet made many plays to don’t show up in the scorebook to keep his team in the game.  Momentum stopping buckets, assist, and amazing challenges and defensive plays in the paint – setting up for an amazing 4th quarter finish for all in attendance.

Chris Lykes (21-points 5 3-pointers) who led the scorers in the first half was also a major factor in the 2nd half along with freshman guard Prentiss Hubb who contributed 16-points all in the 2nd half.  A remarkable performance for the guard who was a late season call up to the varsity level; like the best player he proved his worth on the court.  He rolled off 9 straight points in a key run that allowed the Eagles to go ahead 53-51 late in the last stanza.

Big-time players and step up in big time games as both teams down the starch went to their horse DJ Harvey (18-points 11-rebounds) and Markell Fultz  (16-points) who was named WCAC Player of Year and should be an example to all youth players took it on their shoulders as the game drew close to an end.  But the Eagles had a “hitter” of their own as Sam Miller who is being recruited currently by the Dayton Flyers – who dropped 19-points in the 4th quarter  and overtime alone; scoring all 7 in the initial OT session.  Millers bucket after Fultz made two clutch free-throws is what got the game to the first OT session, not only were his shots big they were timely.

Lykes and Crawford started the 2nd OT session with bookend 3’s that ultimately proved too much for the Stages to recover from as they went down by as many as 10 point in the 2nd OT.  The difference in this very well-played game may have occurred at the line as the Eagles iced the game from the stripe whereas the Stages shoot just 13-21 missing some crucial game changing one down the stretch especially in the 4th quarter.

Coach Turner who started his time at Gonzaga with a core value of philosophy, providence, and passion along with a goal and dream to see his own kids come through the institution has used this to propel Gonzaga into a position that he has become very familiar with at the DC school – WCAC Champion.  Not always having all of the resources and options as some other schools the 77-68 victory on Thursday was very special and sweet.  The beauty is that this was a special and sweet game to play in for both teams as well as watch for all in attendance even if some never stepped foot in the gym the excitement could be felt throughout the entire facility.  

Congratulations to both teams as the show gets rave reviews. 

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