Ireton Coach Peter Hamer calls center Matt Scoble the team comedian. In the first round of the St. Albans Holiday Hoopla tournament last night in Northwest, the senior continued to make sure the Cardinals are no longer viewed as a joke.

Scoble had a game-high 19 points and added 11 rebounds in a 57-40 victory over The Heights in a first-round game. The Alexandria school improved to 6-1, its best start since 1986.

Ireton will face Wilson in the first semifinal at 6:45 tonight. The Tigers defeated Sidwell Friends, 65-62, in the first meeting between the Northwest schools in at least 10 years. The other games--matching O'Connell against Maret and Theodore Roosevelt against host St. Albans--ended too late for this edition.

Ireton continues to thrive despite playing without starting forward Kevin Hogan, a senior co-captain. Hogan broke his right arm and left wrist in a victory over Landon earlier this season. Instead, players such as Scoble (averaging 14 points per game) are stepping up--and providing a few laughs.

"Matt really is the funniest kid on the team," Hamer said. "The other night against Bethesda-Chevy Chase [a 68-67 victory on Dec. 14], he went to the free throw line with the game tied and one second left--and air balled his first shot. Most people would have been worried, but when I looked up he was laughing about it. Then he made the second free throw to win the game. But every night so far we have had different kids lead us, and Matt is one of them."

The Cardinals made certain that they would not need any late heroics against The Heights (4-5) after scoring the game's first 11 points and leading 13-2 at the end of the first quarter.

The Cavaliers closed to 21-20 following two free throws by senior Pat Jacxsens with 1 minute 23 seconds left in the half.

But the Cardinals ended the threat with an 8-0 run to close the half, culminated by a three-point play by Scoble with five seconds left. Ireton then scored the first five points of the second half on a three-pointer by Brian Kadish and a layup by junior Ricky Boddie to take a 33-20 lead that was not threatened.

Ireton won despite getting a rough night from senior forward Seldon Lindsay, who finished with nine points, half his season average. Lindsay was held scoreless in the second half after he picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter.

"We knew when Seldon went out that people were going to have to pick it up," Scoble said. "We know this season that we are a better team, but so is O'Connell and Paul VI. I think the [Washington Catholic Athletic Conference] race is wide open."

In the second game, 11 players scored for Wilson against Sidwell (4-2). Sophomore forward Ronald Timus had a team-high 15 points, including a pair of free throws with five seconds left that gave Wilson (4-6) a 65-62 lead.

Sidwell missed two three-pointers in the final seconds. Quakers senior guard Matt Schneider had a game-high 22 points.