Boys' City Title Game
Naji Hibbert Leads DeMatha Stags to Victory Over Ballou, 55-48, in City Title Game
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
A three-pointer here, a flashy drive to the hoop there. Naji Hibbert has always shown glimpses of his immense talent. Problem is, with every eye-catching move, expectations are raised, causing some to wonder why the DeMatha senior forward doesn't dominate games more often.
"A lot of people say, 'Why I don't do this or why I don't do that,' " Hibbert said. "I try to be a team player."
In his final game on the local stage, however, Hibbert showed from start to finish why he is so highly regarded. He made three-pointers on the Stags' first two possessions and a key three-pointer in the fourth quarter, finishing with 20 points and leading third-ranked DeMatha to a 55-48 victory over 20th-ranked Ballou last night before 5,000 in the City Title Game at Verizon Center.
"I've been a distributor all season," said Hibbert, who averages 12.2 points. "With our team, everyone can score. Today, the game got close and I decided to be a leader, put the team on my back and tried to win the game."
DeMatha (29-3) has a balanced offense, with only one other player -- guard Quinn Cook at 11.6 points per game -- averaging in double figures. Last night, Cook had 10 points and Marcus Rouse added 12, but it was Hibbert who came through in the clutch.
"He's as talented as it gets because he is so versatile," said DeMatha Coach Mike Jones, who was disappointed his team did not get the ball to Hibbert more often early on. "He can score on a pull-up jumper and tonight he showed he can make threes and get to the rim. He played defense and got rebounds. He did all the things you expect an elite basketball player to do."
Hibbert said such praise is a testament to his dedication in his two years at DeMatha. He attended St. Frances in Baltimore for his first two years of high school before deciding to make the hour-plus drive each day from his East Baltimore home to DeMatha in Hyattsville. Getting a 1996 Honda Accord at Christmas made the trip a bit easier, he said.
"I could be tired," he said. "It's mental toughness, that's going to get me ready for college."
Hibbert, who is 6 feet 6, committed to play for Texas A&M before the season. His goal for the season was to win championships, starting with the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title, then last night's trophy. One more remains, at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament in Frostburg, Md., in two weeks.
"Not a lot of DeMatha teams have won all three," Hibbert said. "We want to go out with a bang."
No. 3 DeMatha 55 No. 20 Ballou 48 A Close Shave: Since the DCIAA's last City Title victory in 2004, the Catholic league representative had won the previous four games by an average of 31 points. Last night, though, DeMatha's biggest lead was eight points. Good Timing: Ballou guard Chris Mozee scored a career-high 21 points to lead the Knights, more than three times his season average.