Gonzaga 73, McNamara 65
Over a month ago, the Bishop McNamara Mustangs marched out of Coach Meyer’s Court with their head held high as they downed the Gonzaga Eagles for their first win at Gonzaga in six years. It was a huge win for the program, and a big stepping-stone for the remainder of their season.
Coming into Tuesday night’s game, the Mustangs were in second place behind DeMatha in the conference with an 18-3 record (9-2 in conference play). For the first time in a long time the Mustangs were in a situation where they had a target square on their back. The Gonzaga Eagles, who have been red hot as of late, came into the game looking to extend their win streak to eight, and to right a wrong that was done to them on their home floor back in December.
One of the things that the Eagles needed to do this time around was to not let the Mustangs jump out to an early lead. This was not an easy task, however. The Eagles had their hands full from the start with McNamara’s senior guard Marcus Thornton (William and Mary). From the onset of the game until the final minutes Thornton put on a show. He made a wide array of tough jump shots, even though he was heavily covered on almost every play. Although Gonzaga managed to keep the game close after one quarter, Thornton managed to finish with nine points in the first period alone.
In the second quarter Thornton continued his hot shooting and led the Mustangs on a 12-5 run to start the quarter. Gonzaga continued to throw bodies at Thornton in an attempt to find a match up that best suited them, but Thornton was just too good Tuesday night, and no matter how hard Gonzaga tried he continuously found ways to beat their defense.
Enter Kris Jenkins.
Jenkins dominated the paint throughout the game, and in the second quarter he gave Gonzaga a much-needed lift. Jenkins provided them with six crucial points and some tough offensive and defensive rebounding on their way to a run of their own.
The Mustangs went into halftime clinging to a one-point lead, and the Eagles sprinted back to their locker rooms with some quiet excitement. Gonzaga was ready when they came back out after intermission, and the Eagles went on a 10-2 run to start the third before McNamara Coach Marty Keithline was forced to call a timeout three minutes in.
The third quarter was all Gonzaga, who outscored the Mustangs 22-10 amidst strong play from sophomore guard Nate Britt. He lived on the charity stripe, and ended up making 12 of 14 free throws for the game. Britt showed true grit as he fearlessly dove in and out of the paint, and along with fellow sophomore D.J. Fenner (14 points) the Eagles were able to extend their lead to as many as eleven before finishing the quarter. Britt realized what Gonzaga needed to accomplish to make this game different from the last and executed their game plan to its fullest extent.
“They played zone both times they played us, and we’ve had trouble with that lately," Britt said. "So, this time we wanted to make sure we attacked the middle of the paint and to get the ball to the short corner. That’s what we did tonight, and it got us a lot of lay ups.”
Thornton brought McNamara back, however. He scored six straight points for the Mustangs at the start of the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 34 points (10-12 from the line, with 9 field goals), but that would not be enough to hold off Gonzaga, who won 73-65 in a game that was closer than the final box score indicates.
This week will prove to be a tough test for the Eagles as they head into a stretch where they play Paul VI, St. John's and DeMatha consecutively.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time," Gonzaga coach Steve Turner said. "You can’t look forward. You’ve got to deal with the one game that’s ahead. Tonight it was McNamara, and now our focus is on Paul VI Thursday."
|6||St. Mary's Ryken||13-7||5-6|