HYATTSVILLE – A double-double performance from center Hunter Dickinson and 19 points by senior guard Justin Moore was enough to propel the DeMatha Catholic High School boys basketball team past Roman Catholic, 70-61, in the final game of the ARS Rescue Rooter National Hoopfest on Dec. 9.
The win allowed last year’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) champions to rebound after a tough outing in the second day of the Hoopfest. IMG Academy had four players scored in double-figures including power forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl’s game-high 26 points for a 75-68 win on Dec. 8 over the Stags.
“Coming off of a loss, you always worry about your team’s mentality, especially when they have such lofty goals,” Head Coach Mike Jones said. “But we responded; we started well, went through a stretch where we did not play good defense but ultimately…I am proud of our overall defensive effort.”
DeMatha (4-1) jumped out to an early 7-2 run with Moore hitting an overarching three-pointer in the opening two minutes. However, as the game began to settle down, Roman Catholic (1-1) woke up. Senior Hakim Hart began to find his stride behind the arch, converting four of his six three-pointers in the first half. Hart scored a game-high 22 points.
Meanwhile, freshman Jalen Duren had his way with DeMatha, attacking the paint early and often. The six-foot-nine power forward scored 11 of his 17 points before halftime, frustrating the DeMatha defense with his physicality in the paint during a 7-0 run for Roman Catholic.
With one minute to go before halftime, DeMatha began to slowly impose its will, going on its one 7-0 run by halftime, which grew to a 13-2 scoring streak in the third quarter. After going scoreless in the opening two quarters, senior Carsten Kogelnik hit back-to-back 3-pointers to regain the lead for the Hyattsvile squad.
As DeMatha began to gather momentum, Dickinson, a seven-foot-one junior, provided muscle to finish with 20 points and 13 rebounds. He fought for rebounds and matched Duren’s physicality for easy baskets at the rim. His defensive play around the rim allowed for the Stags to start on fast breaks down the other side of the court.
“In the first half, we were not defensively aware as we wanted to,” Dickinson said. “Just being more aware of their play really helped us in the second half.”
Midway through the third, Dickinson collected a loose ball and started a fast transition with Moore. The Villanova commit quickly launched a half-court pass to a streaking Earl Timberlake Jr. However, instead of finishing off the play with a layup, the point guard threw a no-look back pass to a sprinting Moore for a one-handed dunk as DeMatha’s advantage increased further.
“He’s improved a lot,” Jones said. “His jump shot is better even though he didn’t get a chance to show it tonight because of all the good work he did down under the basket; but his jump shot is better, he’s in better shape, he’s averaging more blocks than he’s averaged and he’s doing a lot of things better to go with the rebounding, passing,and shooting.”
DeMatha pushed its lead as high as 11 in the fourth quarter while Roman Catholic continued to battle with Hart hitting his sixth three-pointer. With the clock winding down and DeMatha only up by five with 37 seconds remaining, a costly turnover by Roman Catholic sealed any hopes of a comeback.
After a pair of converted free throws, Hart tried to do one more layup. However, Dickinson finished off his comeback performance with his fourth block of the game as time expired.
“We started off slow with a couple of guys tired from (Saturday), but we fought through to get the win,” Moore said. “A lot of us were down because of that performance, but we talked about it in the locker room about bouncing back. For us, it’s about staying focus on our goals, and it is good getting that win today.”
Despite the Saturday loss, Jones was impressed by his team’s ability to handle to the pressure of the back-to-back games, including with several college head coaches in attendances. Figures like Georgetown University Head Coach Patrick Ewing, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon, can turn heads in the stands but for DeMatha, it shows a growth in their team that will continue was the season progresses.
“I think we can go 38-1,” Dickinson said. “I think every game this season is very winnable for us and now that we lost (to IMG Academy), we have been put down to earth, so we have to stay humble and keep on working on our chemistry we want for our team and to keep working hard.”