By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2011; D06
Jairus Lyles missed his first six shots Sunday as seventh-ranked DeMatha took aim at its fiercest rival. But with time winding down in the third quarter of a close game, the sophomore guard picked a good time to go on a scoring binge.
After passing to teammate Jerami Grant for a go-ahead jump shot on a previous possession, Lyles scored on a drive, then sank a fast-break three-pointer from the right wing. He capped the surge with a three-pointer from the left wing as the quarter expired, sparking the host Stags to a 57-52 victory over fourth-ranked Gonzaga with first place in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference at stake in Hyattsville.
DeMatha (21-7, 13-4) can clinch the top seed in this week's league tournament by beating St. John's in its regular season finale on Monday. If the Stags lose, Gonzaga (22-6, 14-4) will be the tourney's top seed.
The victory "doesn't mean much yet," said DeMatha Coach Mike Jones, whose team lost to Gonzaga by 10 points one week ago. "We have to take care of business tomorrow night."
It has been an inconsistent past six weeks for the Stags. After winning their first 12 games, they are barely above .500 since, which Jones attributed to his team's youth. Forward Mikael Hopkins, a Georgetown recruit who had 15 points and 10 rebounds, is the only senior in the starting lineup.
Lyles, who is 6 feet 1, has been among those players seeking a more even level of play. Since a four-game stretch early in the season, he has scored in double figures in consecutive games just once.
"He's gone on scoring sprees before, but then he fades back into obscurity for a quarter or so," Jones said. "Tonight, we needed him."
The Stags had led throughout the first half, but Gonzaga - which had won 15 of its previous 16 games - took its first lead, 29-28, on a basket by its lone senior starter, center Ben Dickinson, off an inbounds play. The teams then traded the lead until Grant's 17-footer from the left wing put DeMatha ahead, 34-33.
Then Lyles called his own number. After he missed one shot, a path to the basket opened wide for an easy layup. The fast-break three-pointer, coming off a blocked shot by sophomore center BeeJay Anya, was the kind of shot that coaches never like unless it goes through the net, though Jones said he has never worried about shot selection.
"I knew we needed a big play and [the defender] was going to stop me if I went to the basket," said Lyles, who averages 8.9 points. "It's always a good shot if you make it."
Sophomore D.J. Fenner led the Eagles with 14 points.