The stars are aligning for No. 1 DeMatha; Stags win 10th in a row

Hunter Dickinson, shown here in action last season, is one of the nation's top big men. In December, he committed to play for Coach Juwan Howard at the University of Michigan. As a sophomore in 2018, he helped DeMatha capture its 40th WCAC championship. Photo courtesy of Ed King.

By CHRIS McMANES — Hunter Dickinson and Earl Timberlake are not only DeMatha’s top players. As McDonald’s All-American nominees, they are among the finest basketball players in the nation.

On Monday Jan. 13 at Gonzaga, they showed why.

Timberlake produced 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Dickinson had 14 points and 13 boards as the No. 1 Stags rallied past the Eagles, 70-67, in Northwest Washington. 

DeMatha followed the victory with wins over The Heights (72-33) and at St. Mary’s Ryken (88-65) to improve to 14-2 overall and 8-0 in Washington Catholic Athletic Conference. 

Timberlake and Dickinson had plenty of help against fourth-ranked Gonzaga (11-5, 5-3), the reigning WCAC champion.

Earl Timberlake is the most athletic of DeMatha’s current players. The multi-talented senior is dangerous on the perimeter and underneath. One of the Stags’ most lethal plays is when he feeds Hunter Dickinson with a pass down low. Timberlake has committed to play for Coach Jim Larranaga at the University of Miami. Photo courtesy of Ed King.

Jordan Hawkins finished with 19 points and six rebounds. Fellow junior Elijah Hawkins (no relation) produced nine points and five assists. Freshman Jacoi Hutchinson scored all seven of his points consecutively in the fourth quarter to give the Stags their first lead. 

“We’ve got a team full of guys who are capable,” DeMatha Coach Mike Jones said. “What we’ve learned throughout this season is we’re more than just Earl and Hunter. And I think Earl and Hunter are relishing in the fact that everything doesn’t fall on their shoulders.

“Any time you have that, your team can wind up being pretty good. You know, the only thing that matters is late February [in the WCAC Tournament].” 

“I think we’re trending up right now,” Dickinson said. “The sky’s the limit for this team as we keep getting better every day.” 

Eagle senior point guard Chuck Harris led all scorers with 25 points. His 3-pointer with four minutes remaining in the first half put Gonzaga in the driver’s seat, 28-18. The Eagle lead ballooned to 11 points when he nailed a step-back trey off the dribble. 

Jordan Hawkins hit one of his 3-pointers to bring the Stags back to within eight. Gonzaga had a chance to go back up by double digits with half a minute to play before halftime, but Dickinson blocked Harris’ fastbreak layup.

DeMatha went into the break trailing 35-29 after Timberlake’s inbounds pass positioned Hawkins for a baseline jumper. 

Timberlake scored 11 points in the third quarter, and Dickinson displayed his all-around game well. The 7-foot-2 center got the scoring going by handing off to Timberlake for a reverse layup. He later found Elijah Hawkins open for a 3-pointer from the left wing. 

Despite the Stags’ improved play, they still found themselves trailing the Eagles 52-42 on Harris’ runout slam dunk. DeMatha outscored their longtime rival 9-1 to close the quarter and went into the final stanza trailing, 53-51.

Hutchinson, who took a charge late in the third, nailed a triple from the right corner and followed with an elbow jumper. After two Gonzaga free throws, he made two of his own. Jordan Hawkins’ corner trey concluded a 19-3 outburst to put the Stags up, 61-55 with 5:07 to go.

Junior Will Reynolds assisted on Hutchinson’s and Hawkins’ 3-pointers. Sophomore Tyrell Ward and rookie Kalen Cobb contributed to DeMatha’s defensive intensity in the second half.

DeMatha’s 7-foot-2 center Hunter Dickinson is almost unstoppable around the basket. The University of Michigan recruit has a nice touch from the outside as well. He and fellow senior Earl Timberlake are McDonald’s All-American nominees. Photo courtesy of Ed King.

Dickinson, who added four blocks, said his teammates stepped up “really well” in the second half. “Players like Jacoi and Tyrell gave us big lifts off the bench,” he said. “They really keyed that run we went on, and I think they are the reason we won that game.”

Timberlake rebounded and assisted on a Jordan Hawkins’ fastbreak lay-in, and Dickinson sank a jumper and two free throws to boost the lead to 67-58 with 2:06 left. The Eagles hurt themselves late by missing the front end of three one-and-ones. 

Timberlake closed the Stags’ scoring on a long driving layup. His stat line included six assists, three blocks and three steals. The 6-6 three-year starter has committed to the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.  

Dickinson was impressed with Hutchinson’s play: “He really stepped up and showed everyone that he’s one of the best freshmen in the country.” 

DeMatha has a strong group of players throughout all four classes.

“We’re really deep. We have a lot of players that play really well together,” senior guard Donovan Miller said. “Earl and Hunter are really big pieces on our team. We want to see them succeed. We want to see them be All-Americans. 

“Our team success is going to get them to their success and their goals.”

Jones is happy with his 18th team on Madison Street, which heads into two nonconference games on a 10-game winning streak. Still, he is always looking to tweak things to make his squad even better.

“We’re getting there,” he said. “I think our team feels like we’re growing and we’re building. With a group like we have this year it really doesn’t matter what I feel and what I think. It’s gonna all come down to what they feel and what they think. And I think right now we, as a unit, are in a good place, and they feel like we’re building and we’re growing and we’re getting better. 

“So, that’s a great place to be.”

Future Wolverines – Gonzaga’s Terrance Williams and DeMatha’s Hunter Dickinson have both committed to play at Michigan next season. Monday’s game began with the 6-foot-7 Williams guarding the 7-2 Dickinson. It was the latest of many times the future teammates have been on the court together.

“I’ve known T since we were 8,” Dickinson said. “We’ve been playing together and against each other since then. We’ve played AAU together. So, I’ve known him most of my life. 

“It’s going to be really fun being with him at Michigan.”

In 2018, Williams and Dickinson helped Team Takeover cap off a 23-1 season by capturing the Peach Jam Championship in the 17U Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. Former Stags Justin Moore (Villanova), Jahmir Young (Charlotte) and Carsten Kogelnik (Brown) also contributed to the title.

Dickinson scored 14 points in DeMatha’s three-point victory over Gonzaga. Williams had 10. Their teams will meet in Hyattsville on Feb. 7. 

“DeMatha versus Gonzaga is always going to be a tough game,” Dickinson said. “It’s one of those great rivalries.” 

Off to the Hall of Fame – The Stags will play their next two games in Springfield, Mass., site of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

While there, the players can visit the areas dedicated to two of the most important people in DeMatha basketball history: coach Morgan Wootten and 1972-73 national Player of the Year Adrian Dantley. 

The Stags meet Simeon Career Academy of Chicago on Saturday at noon. 

On Monday, while our country is celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., DeMatha will play Rancho Christian of Temecula, Calif. The club features two of the nation’s top recruits: Evan Mobley (USC) and Dominic Harris (Gonzaga University). 

The game will tip off at 11 a.m. and be televised on ESPNU.

The Stags are ranked fourth in the nation by MaxPreps. Rancho Christian is 17th

Chris McManes (mick-maynz) is an assistant baseball coach at DeMatha. 

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