Drunk off the Stags

Jagermeister BottleThe DeMatha Stags basketball took their undefeated record and #3 national ranking into the Hoop Hall Classic in Springfield, Massachusetts this past weekend but they came up a little short.

The Stags won the first game against one of the best schools in Connecticut that was previously undefeated on Saturday. The weekend didn’t go sour until Monday when the Stags faced #23 Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas, Nevada –a team that they beat last year in the final of the Les Schwab Invitational in Portland, Oregon.

The bitterness that the consensus number one player in the country, Bishop Gorman’s Shabazz Muhammad, must have felt after the loss last year only contributed to his stellar rematch performance against the Stags on Monday. Shabazz Muhammad was all over the court and had the most points against a DeMatha basketball team since Corless Williamson in 1990, with 37 points. (Corliss Williamson scored 43 of his team’s 56 points in a loss to DeMatha and then the Stags went on to an undefeated season in 1990- 1991.)* The differences between the two DeMatha teams from different eras still remain subtle in my estimation.

In the 73-65 loss to Bishop Gorman at the Hoop Hall Classic it appeared as though foul shooting and individual defense are two areas in which they will have to improve on in order to be compared with the likes of the last undefeated team at DeMatha. The zone defense that DeMatha started out in proved to be too slow during the rotations to Shabazz Muhammad, and he had 19 points in the first half of play alone. By the time DeMatha switched to man-to-man midway through the second quarter the damage was done, and Bishop Gorman took an eight point lead into the locker room.

Shabazz Muhammad began to tire when the Stags went to a four guard set on offense and tried to deny him the ball by filling in the passing lanes on defense, but the high school All American still came up with big plays in the second half. Marcellous Bell and Jairus Lyles helped DeMatha trim a 13 point lead down to 2, but that would be the closest that they would ever get. The Cookie Monster and Jerami Grant were both in foul trouble, and neither was particularly effective on the offensive end. Kelvin Howard also got a start for the Stags but he didn’t wind up producing any points.

DeMatha didn’t appear to have the right personnel on the floor in order to win the game and the Stags held the ball deep into their possessions and tried to force the issue down low. Bishop Gorman used a platoon of players to frustrate the Stags with a stifling defense, and their speed translated well with a lot of fast break points on the offensive end. The combination of strategies and executions proved that Bishop Gorman was the better team and they handed DeMatha their first loss of the season.

The brightest spots of the game for the Stags came when there were four shooters on the floor capable of dribble-driving to the basket. Instead of exploiting DeMatha’s deep guard play the game plan predictably focused on a methodical inside game that ultimately slowed down the works on both ends. Mike Jones is a great coach, but I’m wondering out loud here if he had to do it all over again would he stick with the zone defense against Shabazz Muhammad for so long? Mike is a friend of mine and I know that he can take the criticism, besides who hasn’t gotten drunk off the Stags?

Anybody that thinks that Shabazz Muhammad is getting stopped with a zone defense on ESPNU is clearly inebriated and using questionable judgment. DeMatha can hardly afford a hangover tonight at home against Bishop McNamara or Saturday on the road against Gonzaga –two league games that will show if the Stags have any resiliency.

More on that later, though. For now, Go Stags


*Statistics may be erroneous, false, or completely fabricated.


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