Driving the lane in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference is a tall task filled with body blows and shot blockers. DeMatha senior guard Ryan Allen knows this from experience, so when faced with O’Connell’s towering front line, the senior opted to pull up out of its reach.
Behind Allen’s midrange connection, the Stags led the entire second half before nearly throwing the game away to the Knights’ press. After a potential game-winner slammed off the backboard, DeMatha survived for a 73-71 win Tuesday night in Hyattsville.
“We play a lot of physical teams, and I feel like the midrange game is a lost art in the game now. When I work out that’s what I focus on,” Allen said. “Freshman year I was more of a three-point shooter, then I decided I wanted to be about that midrange game.”
Allen scored 13 straight points for DeMatha to close the first quarter as Coach Mike Jones gave him the green light to “attack” O’Connell’s pressing man-to-man defense. The Delaware commit finished with a game-high 27 points.
“That’s what most defenses give up. We take away the three and guard their drive to the basket, and if a guy hits those pull-ups, that’s tough,” O’Connell Coach Joe Wootten said. “We defended well. They just had a great shooting night.”
No. 2 DeMatha (12-1, 6-0 WCAC) rode a suffocating 2-3 zone to an 11-point lead in the second quarter before O’Connell’s guards began attacking the rim. Junior guard Xavier Johnson led the charge as the Knights scored 10 points in the final 90 seconds of the half to cut the deficit to 40-34.
With 6-foot-10 senior Josh Carlton and 7-1 freshman Hunter Dickinson altering every shot that came through the lane, O’Connell guard Matt Lewis relied on hang time and the backboard to lead the No. 10 Knights (10-6, 4-3) with 24 points. O’Connell was energized by a few thunderous dunks off the offensive glass from senior Nate Watson, who added 19.
“I like this type of game where you have to play harder to win those battles around the basket,” Carlton said. “You got to remember it’s a team effort to protect our rim. We can’t stop their drives individually.”