I think we all knew that the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoffs was going to end up this way. On Monday, Gonzaga and DeMatha will meet for the WCAC Championship at American University, again. The two rivals won their semifinal matchups in different fashion on Sunday, with DeMatha slipping by Paul VI Catholic 52-47 and Gonzaga routing McNamara 80-63.
The two will now play for the championship at 8:30 p.m. on Monday. It will be the third time the two teams will play this season, with both having won on their home court against each other.
On paper, Gonzaga had the much harder matchup on Sunday against McNamara, a team who beat Gonzaga earlier this season and probably should have beat DeMatha another time. For the entire first half however, that isn't what it looked like. Every time I checked the scoreboard, Gonzaga was up by 18 points, for some reason. They had bottled up McNamara's Marcus Thornton and were able to get pretty much whatever they wanted on the offensive end.
The second half was a different story, as Thornton starting hitting everything. He took impossible shots with increasing difficulty, and made almost all of them. McNamara starting putting a full-court press on the Eagles and forced turnovers, allowing them to crawl back into the game. But when it came down to crunch time, Gonzaga made all the right plays necessary to win the game.
The biggest story is Gonzaga sophomore Kris Jenkins, who sprained his ankle really badly towards the end of the contest. He went up to contest a shot and landed awkwardly, staying down on the ground for several minutes before being helped off the court by some of his teammates. He appeared to be in serious agony on the bench, but Gonzaga coach Steve Turner told me very matter of factly after the game that Jenkins would be playing on Monday. I don't think there is any way that he would miss this one.
DeMatha took a little bit of a different path to the finals, taking on Paul VI and its star guard Patrick Holloway. The big story from this one was that Mikael Hopkins didn't start for the Stags. Coach Mike Jones said after the game that it was an internal matter and that it wasn't a big deal. Then, he pulled Hopkins aside to make sure he corroborated that story when asked by the press about it.
The game itself was close throughout, but I don't think that anyone in attendance thought that Paul VI was going to pull it out in the end. They are the definition of a team that plays hard enough and has enough talent to hang tough against the big boys, but don't have another complimentary player that can put them over the top.
Now that the semi-finals have been played and the finals are set, we have arrived at the game everyone was expecting. The key to the game on Monday will be DeMatha's size. If the Stags can use it on offense and defense they have a good shot to win on Monday. If the Eagles can avoid that size and make plays on the perimeter, they have a good shot of pulling out a win that would be somewhat of an upset.