Freeman Keeps DeMatha Perfect

Austin Freeman
DeMatha's Austin Freeman scores past the swipe of PaulVI's Danny Sumner. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 8, 2006

It was not guard Austin Freeman's 21 points, scored by efficiently making 9 of 16 shots. It was not the five rebounds or the four assists, the heady plays or good decisions. When DeMatha Coach Mike Jones praised his star junior in the locker room last night following the top-ranked Stags' latest victory, the subject was Freeman's defense

In the unusual move of a coach giving his best player a tough defensive assignment, Freeman responded by leading the effort to contain Paul VI Catholic standout Danny Sumner. Sumner scored five points in the first three quarters, and the visiting Stags went on to a 79-71 victory over the fifth-ranked Panthers before a standing-room-only crowd of 1,300 in Fairfax to all but clinch first place in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular season.

"You should have seen [Freeman's reaction in the locker room]. Austin doesn't talk, but he gave a big high-five to the guy sitting next to him," Jones said. "Danny Sumner is one of the best players in the league."

In a tightly contested game, sophomore center Chris Braswell, a transfer from Suitland, had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and junior guard Jeff Peterson added 13 points for DeMatha (23-0, 14-0). Their scoring helped offset Paul VI guard Jean Cajou, who finished with a career-high 29 points.

Paul VI (18-5, 10-3) had won nine games since a 74-65 loss to DeMatha on Jan. 8, the Stags' closest result until last night. Sumner, a William & Mary recruit who scored 31 points in that game, had played a large part in the Panthers' success during the streak despite being the focus of most teams' defensive game plan.

Last night, the 6-foot-5 Freeman was especially physical in his defense, Paul VI Coach Levi Franklin said. Forwards Kenny Tate, a budding football superstar at wide receiver, and Adrian Miles also helped out as the 6-6 Sumner made 5 of 18 shots. Sumner finished with 12 points, eight below his average, as DeMatha used taller defenders against him.

Freeman also was effective on offense, leading a 9-0 run early in the third quarter that put the Stags in control. He took an outlet pass from Nigel Munson and scored on a fast break, made a layup on a backdoor cut off a feed from Braswell and dunked off a pass from Munson. That gave DeMatha a 46-38 lead and some breathing room.

"I'm not going to say we [usually] try to hide [Freeman on defense] but we try to be discreet in who we put him on," Jones said. "He was motivated tonight because Sumner had done such a good job last time. [Freeman] was challenged defensively. But he did not do it by himself. "

No. 1 DeMatha 79, No. 5 Paul VI Catholic 71 Chasing the Coach: The last time DeMatha finished a season undefeated was in 1990-91, when it was 30-0. Stags Coach Mike Jones was a starting forward on that team. On the Mend: DeMatha reserve guard Matt Campbell, a second-team All-Met football punter this past fall and honorable mention All-Met infielder in baseball last season, is recovering from knee surgery to repair torn meniscus. He is expected to be ready for the upcoming baseball season.

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