By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 9, 2010; D04
The buildup was considerable and Bender Arena was packed well before tip-off. The first few minutes lived up to the hype, but the rest of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference final amounted to yet one more showcase for top-ranked DeMatha and its star junior guard, Quinn Cook.
Cook matched his career high with 30 points and the Stags' other top players also shined as they beat No. 3 Gonzaga by a surprisingly comfortable margin, 71-52, before 4,000 at American University on Monday night.
"After my second three-pointer, I was feeling it," Cook said. "My teammates kept feeding me the ball, kept finding me in good spots and I kept finishing the plays."
Forward Victor Oladipo added 12 points and 12 rebounds, while center Mikael Hopkins dominated inside with eight points, nine rebounds and seven blocks as DeMatha (29-3) won its fifth league title in six years.
It was a stunning outcome, given that the teams had split two games during the regular season. Seven of their previous nine meetings had been decided by four points or less.
But there was no drama Monday. Cook was efficient, making 10 of 15 shots, including five of seven from three-point range. He also had six rebounds, five assists and two steals to lead DeMatha into perhaps the most anticipated City Title game in years. The Stags will play second-ranked Ballou (30-4) on Sunday at Verizon Center at 5 p.m.
"You can look in any players' eyes sometimes and tell they're feeling it," DeMatha Coach Mike Jones said. "But sometimes you have to decide whether it's because they're on or because they're so geeked up. Quinn was on."
Cook cut to the basket for a layup, then made a fast-break three-pointer as the Stags used a 10-0 spurt late in the first quarter to take control. Gonzaga (25-7) was still within reach at halftime, 35-23, before DeMatha started the third quarter with eight consecutive points.
One minute later, Cook made a long three-pointer from well beyond the top of the key and the lead was 46-25. At the time, Cook had as many points as the entire Gonzaga team.
"He did a great job controlling the ball, controlling the tempo and hit big shot after big shot," Gonzaga Coach Steve Turner said.
DeMatha alternated between man-to-man and zone defenses and limited easy scoring chances for the Eagles' standout guards, Cedrick Lindsay and Tyler Thornton. Even when someone broke through the first line of defense, Hopkins often lurked by the basket to erase any chances.
"Whoa, I've never seen him [block shots like] that before," Oladipo said. "He timed everything perfectly."
Perhaps the only thing that didn't go on schedule for DeMatha was the postgame celebration. As the team gathered near midcourt for celebratory photos, someone broke the basketball figurine off the top of the three-foot trophy.
"It wasn't me," Oladipo said. "I put it down and when I looked down the top was off. It was already broken."
Up next: DeMatha and Gonzaga will play in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, March 18-20 in Frostburg, Md. Blood brothers: After the game, DeMatha's players held aloft the No. 20 jersey of senior guard David Naves, who was admitted to a hospital late Friday night with internal bleeding after landing hard following a dunk attempt. He was released Monday but was unable to attend.