HYATTSVILLE — In a rematch between the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference’s (WCAC) top two teams, DeMatha Catholic High School and Paul VI Catholic High School, the Panthers were on their way to pulling off the upset road victory, but the Stags would not allow it.
Justin Moore scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and provided much-needed energy on the defensive end to lead DeMatha to a close home win over Paul VI, 67-64, at Morgan and Kathy Wooten Gymnasium on Feb. 9.
Moore finished with 16 points, center Hunter Dickinson had 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Earl Timberlake, Jr. recorded a team-high four assists to help the Stags pick up the bounce-back win after losing to Gonzaga, 65-58, on Feb. 8.
“I’m one of the main leaders on the team, and I know what it takes to get the win. It was a close game in the fourth quarter, and I just wanted to push our guys, push myself, be aggressive and come out with the win,” Moore said.
Moore expressed what his team’s focus is as it strives to repeat as WCAC champions.
“Right now, we’re just focused on taking it a game at a time, finishing (as the No. 1 seed for WCAC). And then in the playoffs, just get into the mindset of winning.”
DeMatha Head Coach Mike Jones said his team’s defensive discipline late in the game was the main contributing factor to the win.
“We played better defense in the fourth quarter, especially on their ball screens and we made our free throws down the stretch – which were two very important factors in us winning the game,” Jones said. He also praised Moore’s contributions to the victory.
“He’s our leader. Always has been,” Jones said of Moore, who will be heading to Villanova in the fall.
“I’m just really proud of him, and going forward we’re going to need more of it from him.”
DeMatha, the defending 2018 WCAC champions, are ranked No. 5 in the nation, according to a recent MaxPreps poll. Correspondingly, Paul VI is ranked No. 23.
Since the first tip, DeMatha’s guards did well at finding open shooters who were connecting on their 3-pointers to give the Stags an 18-9 advantage entering the second quarter.
DeMatha also began the second quarter on fire, piling on bucket after bucket to take a 36-18 lead with a few minutes left in the first half.
However, the Panthers ended the second quarter on a 12-2 scoring run to cut an 18-point deficit to eight at the half.
In the third quarter, Paul VI took advantage of Stags’ hurried shots and defensive miscommunication to outscore them 20-11. Guard Trevor Keels’ jumper from deep gave Paul VI its first lead of the evening, 47-46, late in the third.
The Panthers led by as much as four at one point until the Stags rallied back to reclaim the lead and regain control of the game in the fourth.
Down 65-62 with 24 seconds left, Paul VI was charged with a shot clock violation with 13.8 seconds remaining. The Stags then had the chance to pass the ball in and draw a foul to extend their lead to close out the game but was instead charged with a five-second inbounding violation which allowed the Panthers one more chance to at least tie the score to force overtime.
Paul VI’s Josiah Freeman came off a screen and pulled up for the 3-pointer to tie the game up, but it fell short, and the ball fell into the hands of Dickinson, who nailed two free throws on the other end to seal the hard-fought win for the Stags.
Only six days before hosting the Panthers for the rematch, DeMatha bested Paul VI at its home court in Fairfax, Va., 78-57. The Panthers’ (20-6, 15-2 WCAC) only two conference losses this year have come to the Stags, who improve to 23-3 overall and 15-1 in conference play.
“I think just staying composed, playing together, I think sharing the ball really helped us,” Dickinson said following the win. The 7-foot-1 junior acknowledged his teammate’s late-game defense on Keels, one of Paul VI’s premier scorers.
“We hit that stretch where they were making everything, and then we just couldn’t make anything at all. But I think continuing to share the ball, in the second half Justin (Moore) really stepped up on defense to guard Trevor Keels, and I think that helped us secure the win.”
Keels was a large part of the Panthers’ run in the third quarter. He led all scorers with 27 points and tallied seven rebounds with a game-high six assists. Knasir McDaniel scored 16 for the Panthers.
“We started off slow the first half. They (DeMatha) made all their shots basically,” said Keels, a 6-foot-4 sophomore. The Panthers could have been more active on defense, he said and could have closed out better on the perimeter. However, he said he was proud of how he and his teammates fought toward the end.
“We shot a good shot…(Josiah Freeman) came off the screen and shot the ball, we all thought it was going to go in. I didn’t go in, and it fell short. But we fought the second half. That makes me happy.”
Despite the loss, Paul VI Coach Glenn Farello said he was pleased with his group’s resilience.
“I was really pleased with the comeback. We showed some resilience to be able to come back on the road after a team that was on fire from 3 did a great job of hitting shots,” Farello said.
“I was really pleased with our resiliency to show that kind of fight to come back.”