Ups & Downs + Rivalry Week

Tonight basketball aficionados all over the country will have their eyes glued to ESPN to watch two of the greatest rivalries in the college game today: Georgetown vs. Syracuse and Duke vs. UNC. It is officially Rivalry Week on the premier sports network and the saga continues this Friday on ESPN2 when Gonzaga plays DeMatha at the Kathy and Morgan Wootten Gymnasium / Convocation Center. I’m going to let that sink in for a minute.

In two days DeMatha will play a regular season home game on ESPN2.  Before we get ahead of ourselves let’s recap what has transpired in the WCAC so far because the drama has been thickening quickly, of late. For starters there is a good chance that when Gonzaga and DeMatha play this Friday that it will only be for second place in the WCAC. That would be due to the fact that Paul VI is currently undefeated in league play. Let’s get down to the get down…

January 21, 2012 Gonzaga edges out DeMatha 76-74 at Bender Arena on the campus of American University in their first meeting of the WCAC season. The good news is that the Stags came all the way back from an eighteen point deficit to tie the game. The bad news is that DeMatha missed out on their opportunity to stick it to Gonzaga and the cause was the familiar nemesis of free throws.  Kris Jenkins had one of the most outstanding games I have seen a Gonzaga kid play. It wasn’t a good day for the Stags to come out flat but again, at least the slide would be short lived.

The Stags cruised to their second win against Archbishop Carroll on January 24, winning the contest 78-66 in what would turn out to be the last home game for super sophomore Johnnie Shuler in a DeMatha uniform. The backup point guard that dazzled college scouts with expert ball control transferred to the DCIAA public school Theodore Roosevelt amid rumors and speculation. I, for one, hate to see him go out like that but I wish him well. Never let it be said that sophomore year at DeMatha is easy which I suspect is the reason for the blazer color change to red/maroon for the junior year: you have to earn it.

The first place Paul VI Panthers proved that their early national ranking and successes were justified when they defended their home court against DeMatha on January 27th. DeMatha, again, didn’t make enough foul shots and let a spirited crowd rush the floor when Paul VI made a last second shot to win the game 64-62. The Panthers made things even more interesting in the WCAC when they also beat Gonzaga 66-53 in a command performance at home four days later to take firm control of first place.

Just to show you that this phenomenon of even the top echelon of teams losing in tough regular season WCAC match-ups isn’t isolated it is wise to note that Paul VI was the second team to beat Gonzaga this year. The Purple Eagles fell to rival St. John’s College Cadets 56-54 on January 29th. DeMatha took care of business on January 31st winning at St. Mary’s Ryken, 92-62 in the two teams’ second regular season meeting. I wasn’t at that game, but I was told that DeMatha looked sharp.

The Stags continued their winning ways against St. John’s College 76-54 on February 3rd to close out the Cadets for the regular season. While the Cadets have shown marked improvement, I was more impressed with how DeMatha Head Coach Mike Jones was able to tweak his line-up to best St. John’s. With Johnnie Shuler gone it almost seemed like DeMatha was having back-up point guard auditions. Not to fear, Stag faithful, the cupboard is full and next year some will be surprised that newly promoted players from Junior Varsity can be great.

Last night Our Lady of Good Counsel lost to DeMatha for the second time 64-37 –this time at home in a game promoted by Coaches Against Cancer. DeMatha has one more home game tomorrow night against Bishop Ireton before the nationally televised game on Friday, and I hope that they can keep up the good work. I wrote a little while ago that I was drunk of the Stags but now it is finally time to get to the sobering work of winning a WCAC Basketball regular season by hitting free throws and defending our home floor. It isn’t rocket science.

Mike Jones already knows this stuff and we have guys that have been here before. James Robinson is just starting to get into his highest gear. The Cookie Monster has worked the kinks out of his mechanics. Jerami Grant is starting to play more responsibly –like an All Star should. Marcellous Bell is still killing teams, slowly, three points at a time. The kids are going to be alright.

I believe that we will win.

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