By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 2, 2009
Finding the spotlight can be difficult for DeMatha junior forward Jerian Grant. His father, Harvey, had a successful NBA career and his older brother, Jerai, is a key reserve at Clemson. DeMatha's roster is filled with future college players and the Stags often win by comfortable margins, reducing the impact of any one play in a given game.
But with third-ranked DeMatha getting all it could handle yesterday from seventh-ranked Bishop McNamara, it was the 6-foot-4 Grant who delivered three key plays that led the Stags to an entertaining 59-56 victory in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament semifinals before 2,000 at American University.
Grant tied the game with a three-pointer from the right wing midway through the fourth quarter, took a charge with the game tied with 1½ minutes left and then scored the decisive basket on a drive down the lane with 51 seconds left.
Grant scored nine of his team-high 15 points in the final five minutes as DeMatha won its 12th consecutive game and advanced to tonight's championship game against sixth-ranked Gonzaga, which got 22 points and seven rebounds from center Ian Hummer in a 57-48 victory over Paul VI Catholic in last night's second semifinal.
"He's a glue guy, he's going to do whatever we need to do to win," DeMatha Coach Mike Jones said, noting that Grant already holds scholarship offers from schools in the Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference. "He's made sacrifices, but colleges recognize his talent."
While Gonzaga (26-4) never trailed, DeMatha (27-3) had a much tougher time. McNamara guard Rashad Whack, a George Mason recruit, tied his career high with 28 points, including 20 in the first half to keep things close. Whack's two free throws early in the fourth quarter gave the Mustangs a 49-44 lead as they held the Stags scoreless for more than seven minutes.
But Grant fed Victor Oladipo for a layup (his fourth assist) and on the following possession Grant faced up on the right wing. After assessing the situation for a few seconds, he launched a three-pointer over 6-7 Brandon Coleman -- a standout junior wide receiver in football -- tying it at 49.
"I was thinking about going past him, but he was backing up and Talib [Zanna, a 6-9 center] was under the basket," Grant said.
McNamara (21-9) twice took the lead, but Grant made two free throws to tie it at 51 and Marcus Rouse's jumper from the right wing drew DeMatha even at 53-53 with 2:12 left.
On the next possession, Grant made the play that Jones called bigger than either of his key scores, moving over and drawing a charge as a McNamara player drove to the basket.
After DeMatha called a timeout, play resumed and Grant found himself out high, guarded by Zanna. While Zanna had a height advantage, Grant thought he could drive past the defender for the go-ahead layup.
"I saw my opportunity," said Grant, who entered averaging 6.5 points. "McNamara was playing with a lot of big men, so I had a chance to go to the basket and be aggressive. I definitely wanted to take that shot. I was feeling it. I was ready to take that shot, go straight to the basket."