O’Connell held a one-point lead against No. 4 DeMatha with 31 seconds left Saturday when Knights Coach Joe Wootten called a timeout, affording both teams a one-minute break to draw up a scheme. But as O’Connell’s players gathered, all they needed to hear was one word: victory.
“We’ve played a lot of close games and when it comes down to a last shot, Coach just calls ‘Victory,’ and that runs an [isolation] play for me,” O’Connell All-Met Melo Trimble said. “From there, it’s on me to make a play and score.”
The simple play reaped a familiar result, as Trimble hit a floater in the lane to seal the No. 9 Knights’ 62-58 win against DeMatha in Hyattsville. The victory, coupled with Thursday’s overtime win against No. 1 Paul VI, pushes the Knights into sole possession of first place in the WCAC.
Trimble finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds, scoring 12 of those points in the fourth quarter to rally O’Connell from a late deficit.
The Knights (9-5, 7-0), the defending WCAC champions, also clamped down defensively and allowed just two DeMatha field goals in the final four minutes after struggling to slow the Stags’ inside-outside attack at the outset.
Corey Henson sparked the Stags early, scoring most of his 25 points on open shots set up along the perimeter by running off of screens. Henson and sophomore forward Joe Hampton combined for 13 points during a 15-3 second-quarter run that put the Stags (13-1, 5-1) ahead by eight at halftime.
But the Knights hung around, finding offense from an unlikely source in junior forward Oumar Barry. The lanky junior scored all six of his points in the third quarter to pull the Knights within two.
DeMatha, however, answered back with sound passes inside that resulted in baskets and several trips to the foul line.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Wootten told the Knights to stop helping on defense with Henson, leaving Trimble to shadow the DeMatha senior. After a three-point play by Reginald Gardner put DeMatha up, 54-48, Trimble and his teammates got aggressive on the offensive end, attacking the basket and knocking down 9 of 10 free-throw attempts.
“We continued to play well on offense down the stretch and then we also started playing smart on defense,” Wootten said. “We’ve really gotten a lot better as a team this month in coming together when it matters.”
After Henson and Trimble traded buckets, Trimble knocked down a long three-pointer from the left side to give O’Connell its first lead since the opening minute and set up his game-clinching floater on the next possession.
“Another win like this is big because it shows we are still contenders,” Trimble said. “Even though people thought we weren’t going to be as good this year, we’re showing we can still compete.”