Washington D.C. ~ Mike Jones held his head in a white towel shedding tears of joy as the DeMatha Stags celebrated their 40th title and 7th overall for Jones. It's been a long six years since a WCAC championship trophy was brought back to Madison Street. Tough loses in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016 were all a sign of times that the basketball talent had spread out to other programs and championships weren't a given like previously before.
"We know how hard Coach has been working," Justin Moore said. "He hasn't gotten one in a while, and we promised ourselves we were going to get this championship for him."
In the thrilling 54-53 victory, just one free throw made the difference. Unsung senior Allin Blunt had a game-high 17 points for Gonzaga while Myles Dread and Terrance Williams provided 10 apiece. Timberlake led the Stags with 14 points along with four spectacular blocks, while Hunter Dickinson provided 12 and Justin Moore added 11 points of his own. Moore even got some inspiration from alum and number 1 pick Markelle Fultz in a FaceTime call where Fultz called on the junior scoring guard to win the one thing he never won -- a WCAC title.
The penultimate title game at Bender Arena was back-and-forth all night, with both teams refusing to give even one inch to their rival. Hunter Dickinson provided a unique highlight when he shot the lane and took it coast to coast for a layup early in the second quarter for a 22-19 lead. Gonzaga was able to take the 43-40 lead off a 7-0 run that spanned the end of the third quarter and the early going of the final frame. It started off with Blunt scoring on back-to-back possessions in the final seconds of the third quarter, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer set up by Myles Dread that gave the Purple Eagles a 41-40 lead heading into the last quarter.
Gonzaga would continue to pour it on, creating a 51-46 lea --their largest lead of the night -- when Terrance Williams was forced to sit when he picked up his fourth foul with 3:42 left in the game. DeMatha would take advantage with their own 7-0 run that was capped off by an Earl Timberlake 3-pointer that gave them a 53-51 lead.
"I knew bringing Earl to this team was going to help us win this championship," Moore said. "He's a straight dog and that's what we needed out of him."
As the fans and students exited Bender, you could hear alum young and old talk about how sweet this victory, just like in the good old days with a hearty laugh, a pair of elderly men would say heading out the door.
"This feels as good as the first one," Jones added, his eyes still bloodshot from crying.