O'Connell's Brett Herberger recently realized that he was working too hard for his points. Herberger, the Knights' tallest player at 6 feet 7, was predominantly scoring from the outside until first-year boys basketball coach Joe Wootten asked him to go inside for his points.
Herberger responded with a game-high 24 points as O'Connell defeated Takoma Academy, 73-66, in the first game of the DeMatha Invitational at MCI Center yesterday. The point total was the second highest of Herberger's season. He had 26 points in a victory over Ireton. Almost all of his points yesterday came in the lane.
"Brett had been working too hard for his points," said Wootten, whose father, Morgan, coached DeMatha against Holy Name (Mass.) in the evening's final game. "We decided to get him the ball inside today and try to get him some easier shots."
O'Connell improved to 13-5.
Wootten said yesterday's game was good preparation for the Knights' home game against No. 9 St. John's on Saturday. The Cadets, like Takoma, have a small lineup with several quick guards and good shooters. Yesterday, after Tigers 6-5 center Teddy Stewart got in early foul trouble and missed much of the second half, the team used a lineup in which 6-3 guard Tamir Goodman was the team's tallest player.
"Takoma was awful quick and they made a lot of threes," Herberger said. "But we had a size mismatch inside, the guys called some plays for me and I was able to make some close shots."
Herberger, a transfer from DeMatha, had another reason for motivation yesterday--like the rest of his O'Connell teammates, he had never played in a game at MCI Center, even though he was part of two DeMatha teams that played here.
"I never played in either game," Herberger said. "I watched both games. It felt good to get out and play this time."
Takoma Academy (9-5) trailed 37-30 at halftime. But the Tigers opened the second half with an 18-12 run, capped by a long three-pointer by Goodman with 45 seconds left in the quarter that cut the deficit to 49-48. After going scoreless in the first half, the senior had nine points on three three-pointers in the third quarter. He finished with 16 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
"It doesn't matter how tall or how much of a size advantage the team we are playing has," Takoma Coach Joe Perrone said. "The kids are going to fight and they did that tonight. I thought we had a couple chances to win the game but O'Connell is a good team and I wish them well."
Takoma tied the game at 62 following two free throws by junior guard Joe Mathis with 2 minutes 58 seconds left. But O'Connell went on a 5-0 run--four points from Herberger and a free throw by sophomore guard Ahmad Smith--to take a 67-62 lead with 1:23 left. The Knights then made 4 of 4 free throws to secure the victory.
O'Connell senior Tony Martin added 13 points and Smith scored 11 points. Takoma was led by Mathis and junior Tony Skin, who each had 19 points.
CAPTION: O'Connell's Tony Martin goes high over Takoma Academy's Teddy Stewart, right, Brian Wright, to score two of his 13 points.