Over the past 30 years, many DeMatha-St. John's basketball games have been decided in the waning seconds. Earlier this season, DeMatha got a last-second three-point field goal to force overtime before escaping with a win. Last night's rematch also came down to one play.
Leading by a point and desperately trying to force a turnover, DeMatha's Ted Ellis came up with a steal with 17 seconds left. The guard sank two free throws, and later two more to give the top-ranked Stags a dramatic 62-58 victory over the No. 9 Cadets in a key Metro Conference game at Takoma Academy.
The win pushed DeMatha's record to 21-0, 3-0 in second-half conference play. Coupled with a 58-57 decision over Good Counsel last week, the victory put DeMatha in the driver's seat for another conference championship and a berth in the City Title Game.
The Cadets (17-4, 1-2), who outrebounded the smaller Stags and made 22 of 26 free throws, certainly had their chances. Behind Warren Williams (16 points), Eric Micoud (13) and Mike Brown (11), they led much of the way.
Five points from Vaughn Jones (25 points, nine rebounds) and a driving scoop shot by Joe Wootten (11) gave the Stags a 57-53 lead with 2:14 left, but Williams and Micoud each sank two free throws to get the Cadets to 58-57 with 1:37 to go.
St. John's then got its opportunity when DeMatha's Chris Parsons was called for traveling with 1:15 left. The Cadets played keepaway, looking for the last shot until Williams and Brown got caught in DeMatha's trap and the ball was slapped loose by Wootten. Ellis grabbed it and held on for dear life until he was fouled with 13 seconds left.
"We were not going to let them play for the final shot. We were going to trap the ball and try for the turnover before we had to foul," DeMatha Coach Morgan Wootten said. "They shoot foul shots so well, we didn't know who to foul anyway."
Ellis pushed the Stags' lead to 60-57. DeMatha played tough defense before fouling Kevin Gibbs with three seconds left, thus eliminating a three-point shot. Gibbs sank the first foul shot before deliberately missing the second, hoping for a rebound. The ball didn't hit the rim -- a violation -- and DeMatha took possession. Ellis was fouled again and hit two free throws.
The Stags looked less than intimidating in the first half, falling behind by 33-27. They closed to 45-44 after three quarters.