Gonzaga defeats McNamara, 73-65, in WCAC boys basketball
By his own admission, the first half of the season was difficult, as best, for D.J. Fenner. He had moved back to the Washington area after living in Seattle last year and rejoined close friends Nate Britt and Kris Jenkins on the Gonzaga basketball team.
But as the season winds on, the son of former NFL wide receiver Derrick Fenner is getting more accustomed to his new team. On Tuesday night, the sophomore forward showed why he is a coveted recruit at both ends of the floor.
Fenner doubled his season average and came within one point of his season high, finishing with 14 points, and did well enough chasing McNamara standout guard Marcus Thornton all over the court as the sixth-ranked Eagles beat second-ranked McNamara, 73-65, in a physical Washington Catholic Athletic Conference game in Forestville.
"He showed a lot of people what he is capable of being, what he is capable of doing," said Gonzaga Coach Steve Turner, noting that Fenner is drawing considerable interest from schools in the Pac-10. "It's been a rough adjustment for him, trying to get comfortable with what we're doing."
Fenner looked comfortable on offense and defense Tuesday. Though Turner tried two shorter, quicker guards on Thornton early on, both got in foul trouble. That led to the 6-foot-6, 207-pound Fenner drawing the assignment of following the slender, 6-4 Thornton.
Thornton scored 34 points for the fourth time this season. But the William & Mary recruit was just 10 for 27 from the field as Gonzaga (15-4, 7-2) did everything it could to disrupt one of the Washington area's leading scorers. At times, it looked as if Fenner was a football defender trying to chase Thornton in pass coverage, attempting to never take his eyes off Thornton and deny him the ball or a path to the basket.
"I knew I could 'D' him up, although he is quicker than me," said Fenner, who gave up playing football when he reached high school. "My body helps me out. I can get up on him and keep him from making those flashy moves."
Fenner's offense was a bonus in the first half as the Eagles tried to keep up with McNamara (18-4, 9-3). The Mustangs led 35-34 at halftime but Gonzaga gradually built a lead in the third quarter. Britt, who played little in the second quarter after picking up his second foul, scored eight of his 16 points in the period.
Jenkins finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Fenner added seven rebounds as the Eagles won their eighth consecutive game.
"The first semester was awful for me. You could see it on the basketball court, not to make excuses," Fenner said. "But now it's clicking for me."