There was a scene, late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference boys' basketball semifinal between DeMatha Catholic High School and Bishop Ireton, equally as telling of the score as the scoreboard itself.
Brock Ruble, Joe Hampton, Corey Henson, Terrell Allen and D.J. Harvey all sat at the end of the bench, wide smiles pasted on their faces, laughing with the student section beyond the baseline at American University's Bender Arena, as five players not many outside of DeMatha would have known the names of finished out the final four minutes of the most important game to date for the Stags.
The starters and key role players had done their jobs so well that their services weren't needed much past the third quarter, and coach Mike Jones was able to empty the bench as DeMatha earned a date with Paul VI in Tuesday's WCAC final with a 70-36 drubbing of Ireton.
“Everybody tells us how young we are and everybody tells us how we started the year ranked 17 in the [Washington] Post and nobody really talked about us when they talked about potential contenders and champions — other than a couple guys,” Jones said. “I just think our team has earned everything they got. Sometimes people say DeMatha gets things because people expect us to and you cannot say that about this squad. They've earned everything they've gotten.”
As has happened from time to time this season, the Stags' offense had a bit of a sleepy start, scoring just 11 points in the first quarter. But Jones has been around the game long enough to understand that the offense doesn't always show up for all 32 minutes, which is exactly why he is such a stickler on defense.
The defense was the key in beating St. John's College four days ago, when the Stags held the Cadets to 52 points, their second-lowest total of the season. And it was again the key on Sunday as Ireton was held to single-digit scoring totals in every quarter except the fourth, the game already well in hand.
“The second half we just tried to play defense, tried to hold them to less points than they had in the first half,” guard Terrell Allen said. “I think we're just playing with more energy, we're more enthusiastic. Coach Jones tries to put an emphasis on the defense, that's what's going to win championships so we just have to make sure we play defense on Tuesday night, get the win.”
Offensively, it was another typical stuffed box score for DeMatha in which 11 players scored. Allen and Ahmad Clark led with 11 points each, and all 11 of Clark's came in the final four minutes while Allen provided much needed sparks here and there throughout the first half.
On Tuesday, DeMatha will return to Bender Arena to meet Paul VI in the season's rubber match. Jones doesn't care if the score is 100-99 or 31-30. All he wants, he said, “is to have just one more point than them at the end of the game.”
DeMatha 70, Ireton 36
DeMatha (27-3, 16-3) 11 10 19 30 — 70
Ireton (18-13, 8-12) 7 9 6 14 — 36
DeMatha: Terrell Allen 11, Ahmad Clark 11, Corey Henson 8, D.J. Harvey 6, Joe Hampton 6, Thomas Bruce 6, Brock Ruble 5, Reggie Gardner 5, Jaelin Grant 4, Nate Darling 3, Kellon Taylor 2.
Ireton: Patrick Moseh 16, Daniel Noe 7, Ty Quarles 4, Nicholas Schmelzer 2, Michael Everett 2, Jamie Senft 1, Chandler Wilder 1.