By CHRIS McMANES — For the first time in 32 days Tuesday night, No. 3 DeMatha walked out of Morgan and Kathy Wootten Gymnasium with a victory.
The Stags, playing without their top big man, held on to defeat No. 6 St. John’s, 65-62, at the LT (SEAL) Brendan Looney ’99 Convocation Center. DeMatha junior Justin Moore led all scorers with 24 points. He was happy to leave the arena with a win.
“We lost our last two home games,” Moore said. “So, we had to get this one.”
The Stags improved to 16-3 and 4-2 in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. Their only loss outside the league was to the top team in the nation, Montverde (Fla.) Academy.
Since defeating O’Connell on Dec. 22, DeMatha had won five national neutral-site games, as well as two local road contests. The Stags lost at home to Gonzaga on Jan. 11 and by 15 points to top-ranked Paul VI five days later.
Prior to that, DeMatha’s last loss in Hyattsville came on Feb. 9, 2016. That team featured Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft.
“It had been a while since we lost here, and we surely didn’t lose in here at all last season,” Stags Coach Mike Jones said. “We’re not used to losing in this building.”
A pair of DeMatha transfers joined Moore in double-figure scoring. Junior Jahmir Young tallied 17 points. Sophomore Earl Timberlake had 15.
Tre Wood led the Cadets (11-6, 6-4) with 15 points, and Richard Njoku totaled 14.
The Stags took a 46-44 lead into the fourth quarter. They scored the first six points of the period amid a 10-2 run to build a 56-46 lead. Timberlake, who had six points during the outburst, punctuated it with a tip-in.
St. John’s clawed back and cut it to 62-58 on a 3-pointer by Casey Morsell with 25.9 seconds to play. Njoku scored in the lane off an inbounds pass to pull the Cadets within one. They were looking for a trey when Njoku scored, but DeMatha defended the 3-point shot well.
“We did a good job,” Jones said. “It wasn’t even a clean [shot]. It still took a little bit of time before they could make the layup. So that was good.”
Young then sank two free throws with 6.3 seconds left. Wood raced up court and got off a clean 3-point shot on the right wing. It appeared to be on the mark before bouncing off the rim.
“We made free throws down the stretch and our defense, at times was really, really good,” Jones said.
Timberlake scored seven points in the decisive fourth quarter and Moore six.
“The game was on the line, and we’re some big leaders and big playmakers on this team,” Moore said. “So that’s our responsibility – to take over the game.”
When the Stags won at St. John’s, 69-51, in December, they had their 7-foot center, Hunter Dickinson. The sophomore scored a game-high 16 points that night but missed Tuesday’s game with an illness.
“We were missing Hunter, so we had to be more aggressive than usual,” Moore said. “I told Jahmir just keep attacking and be relentless. And that’s what we did.”
- DeMatha travels to league rival Good Counsel tonight before playing The Patrick School of Hillside, N.J., at Gonzaga on Saturday. The second game is part of the New Jersey vs. D.C. Collision. The second-annual event features three other contests. Patrick defeated DeMatha, 63-56 in Roselle, N.J., last year.
- Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers was selected to play in his first NBA All-Star game. Oladipo graduated from DeMatha in 2010 and Indiana three years later. He attended and played basketball prior to that at St. Jerome. He will be the first former Jaguar in the All-Star game.
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) covers DeMatha basketball for the Hyattsville Life & Times.