By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 8, 2010; D05
At first, Malcolm Lemmons thought Gonzaga teammate Cedrick Lindsay was going to shoot. Lemmons went to the basket and saw Lindsay's bullet pass whistling his way. He knew the clock was speeding toward zeroes, knew he couldn't risk setting his feet or the game was headed to overtime.
So in one awkward but effective motion, he caught Lindsay's laser and twisted his body into an awkward layup that went through at the buzzer, lifting the third-ranked Eagles to a 63-61 win over O'Connell on Sunday in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference semifinals before 3,500 at Bender Arena.
The acrobatics spoiled a stunning rally from Kendall Marshall and the Knights, who came back from 12 points down late in the third quarter to draw even with Marshall's putback with 5.6 seconds remaining.
"When they started pressing us, I watched how hard they were overplaying our forwards," said Gonzaga Coach Steve Turner, who called timeout to draw up the decisive play after Marshall's momentary heroics. "So I said [to Lemmons], 'When the ball gets in, go to the rim.' And I told Ced, 'Keep your head up, someone is going to be open.' "
Said Lindsay, who took the inbounds pass deep in his own end and sped up the court before passing from about 10 feet past midcourt: "Everything just opened up. Malcolm cut baseline and he finished the layup."
The dramatics improved Gonzaga to 25-6 and set up a riveting final matchup at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Bender Arena with top-ranked DeMatha for a berth in next Sunday's City Title game at Verizon Center, their third meeting of the season after having split the previous two.
No. 2 Ballou (30-4) awaits the winner.
With the Stags' players and coaches watching, Gonzaga appeared in command for much of its game against O'Connell. Led by Lindsay (23 points) and All-Met guard Tyler Thornton (17 points), the Eagles led 50-38 in the final minute of the third quarter.
But playing its sixth game in as many days -- something that irked Coach Joe Wootten -- O'Connell (19-14) rallied behind its star. Marshall scored all of his 21 points in the second half, including eight in the final 70 seconds.
After Lemmons missed the second of two free throws with 16 seconds left, Marshall dribbled the length of the court, shot and missed, grabbed the rebound and scored, setting up the final play.
As Lindsay dribbled up the right side of the court, Lemmons cut down the left side and got to the basket.
"I creeped behind [a defender] and snuck around him," Lemmons said. "I don't think he saw me. You get lucky sometimes. Just one of those plays and Ced made a great look."
In the first semifinal, DeMatha broke open a tie game with its third-quarter run.
Quinn Cook fed Victor Oladipo for consecutive fast-break layups, the latter coming on a nifty behind-the-back pass. By the time St. John's had missed its 10th straight shot to start the second half, Cook was making a three-pointer from the right wing to push the Stags' lead to nine.
Cook led DeMatha with 13 points. St. John's guard Chris Martin had a game-high 20 points.
"It was a very tough game up to that point," DeMatha Coach Mike Jones said. "Those three or four plays were very key for us. Even though they closed it a little bit, or a lot, we still had momentum on our side. We've got to play a lot better tomorrow."