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Hummer and Zanna to Battle Again; Gonzaga and McNamara Ready for Rematch

Post reporter B.J. Koubaroulis previews Friday night's Washington Catholic Athletic Conference boys' basketball showdown between Gonzaga and Bishop McNamara. Video by B.J. Koubaroulis/The Washington Post
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, February 12, 2009; 11:47 AM

Before a practice this week, Gonzaga senior center Ian Hummer let out an uncomfortable laugh when the conversation turned to his matchup with Bishop McNamara's Talib Zanna.

During a 67-41 home victory over the Mustangs on Jan. 13, Hummer contained Zanna, holding the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Pittsburgh recruit to just four field goals and a total of 11 points.

"I was fortunate to come out on the winning end of that one," said Hummer, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound Princeton-bound senior. Hummer scored 17 points in the victory and established an inside presence that both disrupted McNamara's flow and allowed Gonzaga to free up its outside shooters. "That will be my assignment again. [Zanna] is one of the best big men in the league. I definitely got to force him to his weak hand. He's improved his jump-shot a little bit, so I definitely got to look out for that."

Zanna, who is leading the fifth-ranked Mustangs with 15.7 points per game, is widely considered one of the top talents in the talent-rich Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

"Last time I learned that I have to be patient when I get the ball," said Zanna. "I had two charges because I was trying to rush the play. This time I have to take my time, make my move and create some baskets or some wide open shots."

Friday's 7:30 p.m. rematch in Forestville will pit two of the area's top teams in a key WCAC showdown that should help create space in a tight league race for seeding in the upcoming tournament.

Gonzaga (21-3, 12-2 WCAC) is currently atop the league standings, while McNamara (18-6, 10-3) sits in fourth place behind DeMatha (20-3, 11-2) and Bishop O'Connell (19-6, 11-3). A McNamara victory would give the Mustangs the school record for wins in a season.

No. 7 Gonzaga, last year's WCAC tournament champion, had its 13-game winning streak snapped Sunday in a 46-44 loss to O'Connell, but rebounded Tuesday with a 49-44 victory over Paul VI.

"Playoffs is coming up soon and the season is winding down, so to get a big win like this would be tremendous for our confidence going into (the) playoffs," said Gonzaga's Tyler Thornton, a 6-2, 190-pound junior who has orally committed to Duke. "They are another top team in the conference. We sit number one right now and they're not too far behind so to play against that caliber of a team and for us to get a good win at their house, it would be great."

Following its 61-60 loss to Good Counsel, McNamara has won two in a row, including Tuesday's 62-54 victory over St. John's in which Rashad Whack scored 24 points, showing he's fully recovered from the ankle injury that hampered him in the first meeting with Gonzaga.

"Being at full strength will help me because I'll be able to move better, create better shots and defend the ball better," said Whack, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound George Mason-bound senior who is averaging 11.8 points per game and is one of the league's best three-point shooters. "A win over would be great to show that they are beatable and how good of a team we are this year. So just getting a win would be tremendous and a good way to go into the playoffs."

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