All articles are written by YJDP Student Sports Writers and edited by mentors from The Washington Post prior to publishing.
On Jan. 2 in Fairfax, Paul VI defeated Gonzaga 69-47. Twenty-nine days later, the Panthers emulated the first matchup with an almost identical score, winning 69-49 in downtown DC. As Gonzaga entered the WCAC playoffs for a rematch with Paul VI on Saturday at Gallaudet, the Eagles looked to overwrite the regular-season losses and prove why they still are a force within the tough WCAC.
From the opening tip, Gonzaga looked to out-run the Panthers. The Eagles up-tempo flow and harassing defense got to the Panthers early, as they jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead two minutes into the game. Paul VI, however, responded with a 6-0 run of their own. But following a Paul VI turnover, Gonzaga’s Sam Miller slammed a two-handed dunk to put his team up 12-7 with just over three minutes left, forcing Glenn Farello to take an early timeout. Two more baskets from Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof and Chris Lykes, who had a game-high 21 points, put the Eagles up by 9 and Paul VI in a deep hole. The Panthers were able to establish a bit of momentum, as big man Marcus Derrickson powered home a couple low post layups to close the gap to 18-11 after one quarter.
Down 18-13 with a minute gone in the second quarter, the Panthers went on a 8-3 run to tie the game at 21 in the middle of the quarter. The energy and momentum shifted back in their direction, as they emulated Gonzaga’s style of play in the opening quarter. They trapped, forced turnovers, and got out in transition to retake the lead. With the game tied at 25 and just over a minute left, Kevin Dorsey knocked down four consecutive free throws after a technical and a foul to give his team their largest lead of the game, at 29-25.
The run-and-gun style of play continued in the third quarter. Dorsey, who had 10 points at the half, hit a layup to put his team up 41-33 at the 3:30 mark. The Panthers elevated their defensive intensity, forcing the Eagles into even more turnovers. Still, Gonzaga remained in contention. Down by just 6 with a minute before the end of the quarter, Sam Miller connected on a three-pointer to cut the deficit 43-40 at the end of the third.
The game’s intensity rose again in the fourth quarter, as two intentional fouls were called on Gonzaga. Paul VI converted all of the ensuing foul shots, which would prove critical down the stretch. With momentum in their favor, the Panthers turned to Derrickson to close out the contest.
When Derrickson touched the ball in the first half, he was double and triple-teamed, resulting in traveling violations and turnovers. But the fourth quarter proved different.
“I was able to find a rhythm and I took my time more in the second half,” he explained.
Derrickson scored the Panthers’ first next baskets to extend the lead to 47-40, sparking a 13-3 run to give Paul VI a comfortable 56-43 lead with just over three minutes left in the game. Gonzaga had their opportunities throughout the final period, but they couldn’t find a way to finish. After the game, Coach Turner admittedly acknowledged how shooting at the foul stripe was costly in the final minutes.
“We had way too many turnovers,” said Turner, whose team shot 14-for-25 from the foul line, “and the free-throws hurt just as much.”
Down 10 with 1:30 left, Gonzaga played the foul game, but Dorsey, who finished with 15, and Joshua Reaves went a perfect 6-6 from the foul line as Paul VI outlasted Gonzaga 61-54 to advance to the semifinal round of the WCAC playoffs where they will take on McNamara.