HYATTSVILLE – The National High School Hoops Festival, known as Hoopfest, garnered the attention of numerous college scouts, fans and some of the nation’s top programs, culminated with a compelling matchup between DeMatha Catholic High School and Sunrise Christian Academy in front of a crowded Morgan Wootten Gymnasium on Dec. 8.
The score remained close throughout the evening as the game saw two ties and four lead changes. But the Buffaloes, led by guard Ty Berry, were able to make timely late-game plays to come away with the hard-fought win, 75-67, over the Stags.
Berry recorded a game-high 21 points to go with four rebounds and two steals, including a game-sealing layup and two clutch free throws, to help Sunrise Christian (8-0) give the Stags (3-1) their first loss of the year.
DeMatha went on an 8-1 scoring run to cut their deficit from 60-52 to 61-60 with about five minutes left in the game and kept it close to trail 67-65 at the two-minute mark.
About 30 seconds later, a Stags foul sent Berry to the free-throw line, where he sank both attempts from the charity stripe to give the Buffaloes a 69-65 lead. After DeMatha failed to respond on the offensive end, Berry received the outlet pass and drove the ball hard to the hoop for a lay-in to put his team up 71-65 with 30 seconds remaining to secure the win for Sunrise Christian.
On DeMatha’s next possession, a corner 3-pointer was blocked by Berry. As Sunrise Christian reclaimed possession, the Stags were forced to foul as the Buffaloes high-fived one another in celebration.
“It was a good game, (a) tight game,” DeMatha Head Coach Mike Jones said. “(Sunrise Christian) went on two really good runs in the second half, and we responded well to one, didn’t respond well to the other one until it was a little bit too late, and we ran out of time.”
In the final two minutes, “the difference was,” Jones said, “They made the right plays, we didn’t. They get a couple of calls; we didn’t. They’re just a very good team.”
Sunrise Christian came out firing, knocking down eight 3-pointers in the first half to take slim leads of 19-18 after the first and 37-36 at halftime. In the third quarter, Sunrise Christian outscored DeMatha 19-14 to enter the fourth with a six-point cushion. The Buffaloes finished the game shooting 53.3 percent from the field (24 of 45) and 45.5 percent from deep (10 of 22) to remain unbeaten. The night before it squared off against DeMatha, Sunrise Christian defeated Gonzaga on Dec. 7, 61-55.
“They’re nationally ranked, well-coached, they got depth, they got everything that a national program should have, and we fought them to the end, and they got us,” Jones added.“We play a league game on Tuesday night (Dec. 10) here at home. We better be ready to play, and then whatever comes after that comes after that, but our focus right now is on getting back on the bike and getting ready for Tuesday.”
Earl Timberlake, Jr. led DeMatha with a team-high 17 points on 4 of 13 shooting and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. The senior guard was able to get to the basket and draw fouls, drilling seven of his 10 free-throw attempts, but could not get a 3-pointer to fall late in the fourth to bring his team back.
“Something we didn’t do is that we didn’t guard the ball screens well,” said the 6-foot-6 left-handed shooter. “The game is over; we gotta look forward. The next game is Tuesday against (Bishop) O’Connell,” added the Miami commit, hoping his Stags can “bounce back and get some momentum going into Montverde (Academy) on Thursday.”
The Buffaloes used a balanced offensive attack along with cuts to the basket, screens, ball movement and sound defense to keep a narrow lead for the majority of the game. Zacary Clemence, Willie Lightfoot and Jayden Stone scored 10 points apiece to help Sunrise Christian to the win.
Sunrise Christian Head Coach Luke Barnwell said it took “a lot” to outlast the Stags, crediting their talent and toughness.
“What it took was just 13 guys coming into a hostile environment just believing in each other and trusting in the work that we put in… as long as we can compete hard and play hard and share the ball, I think we got a chance,” Barnwell said of the win.
Hunter Dickinson, a 7-foot-2 senior, finished with nine points and nine boards for the Stags while sophomore Tyrell Ward chipped in with 10 points and four rebounds off the bench.
DeMatha will return to action when it hosts conference opponent, Bishop O’Connell, on Dec. 10 before traveling to Florida for a matchup against Montverde Academy.