WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mike Jones held it all together until it was over, until a last-second shot by Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) fell awry, then the DeMatha (Hyattsville, Md.) coach could finally relax and the tears came.
They were tears of joy and maybe a little relief too, as the No. 13-ranked Stags won their first Washington Catholic Athletic Conference boys basketball title since 2011, defeating the Eagles 54-53.
“Honestly, this feels like the first one — it’s been so long since we won one,” Jones said. “I remember the emotion I had when we won the first one in ’05, the first one after Coach (Morgan) Wootten (who won 33 WCAC titles from 1961 to 2002). I’ll never forget these kids. Just knowing the work and it’s been so long. People have doubted us and this is something special.”
Though DeMatha (28-5) held the lead for most of the game, it was never comfortably ahead. Earl Timberlake paced the Stags with 14 points, including a crucial three-pointer with 2:30 left that put his team up 53-51.
“We had the lead most of the second half, only to lose it for a bit,” Jones said. “A lot of teams crumble under that, but we didn’t. Earl Timberlake spent a lot of mornings in the gym shooting and the two threes he hit today were something special.”
Gonzaga (27-6) was trailing 54-53 but had the ball with 21 seconds to go when DeMatha stepped up the defensive pressure. Stags center Hunter Dickinson came up with a huge steal and he was fouled with a second left. Though he missed the free throw, there wasn’t enough time for a good shot for the Eagles.
DeMatha, which started the game with five underclassmen, was able to take home the trophy after falling in the WCAC final the past three years, including the last two to Gonzaga.
“I told them all year long we weren’t going to talk about how young we are,” Jones said. “There were times we were looking to come unraveled, but we didn’t. Our young guys got it done for us. I couldn’t have been more proud.”
Gonzaga was led by Allin Blunt with 19 points. At times, in the second half, he took the game over. He scored seven consecutive points at the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarter to put his team up 43-40.