Paul VI Catholic 57,

St. John's 44

Considering Paul VI Catholic was playing its eighth Washington Catholic Athletic Conference game in 14 days, the pace at which the Panthers opened last night's game against St. John's was stunning.

Behind Nick Grant's high-flying dunks and the gritty play of brothers Steven and Darryl Proctor underneath the basket, No. 18 Paul VI raced to a double-digit lead in the opening minutes and cruised to a 57-44 victory in Northwest.

Steven Proctor led all scorers with 15 points, Grant scored 12 points -- four of which came on spectacular slams -- and Darryl Proctor chipped in with seven points and 10 rebounds to help the Panthers complete their conference schedule on an eight-game winning streak. With the victory, the Panthers (20-6, 13-3) have ensured themselves at least third place heading into next week's conference tournament at American University, but they could climb as high as second depending on the outcome of Sunday night's game between Gonzaga and O'Connell.

"I'm exhausted," Paul VI Coach Levi Franklin said. "It's been a tough two weeks. But the encouraging thing is we're playing really well. . . . We were playing on fumes."

Paul VI's schedule was congested because of several weather-related postponements and a handful of others that were pushed back because of problems with the Panthers' gymnasium. After tonight's game against St. Mary's Ryken, however, the Panthers will finally get a chance to catch their breath before opening tournament play at the end of next week.

"We are on a roll now," said Darryl Proctor. "The playoffs can't get here soon enough."

Paul VI used an aggressive man-to-man defense and jumped to a 15-0 edge by the end of the first quarter. Except for a run by St. John's early in the third quarter, which cut the Panthers' lead to seven, Paul VI never looked back. The Panthers also got 12 points from guard Terron Diggs.

St. John's (16-11, 8-8) lost its fourth in a row, falling to 3-4 without leading scorer Joe Miles (broken foot) and are virtually ensured the fourth seed. The Cadets were led by Jay Bluford (14-points) and Nick Jones (10), and will likely face Bishop McNamara in the first round.

"Paul VI is a playing very, very well right now," St. John's Coach Paul DeStefano said. "They went up big in the first quarter, and when you allow a team like that to take a 15-0 lead, it's going to be very difficult for you to come back."