All-Met guards Austin Freeman of DeMatha and Chris Wright of St. John's will get one more chance to face each other as opponents before they become Georgetown University teammates.
With the two McDonald's all-Americans and good friends leading the way, second-ranked DeMatha and fourth-ranked St. John's rolled to easy victories last night in the semifinals of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament.
The Stags and Cadets were so dominant that their star players got plenty of time on the bench to rest for tomorrow's title game.
Despite early foul trouble, Freeman scored a game-high 21 points as the Stags won for the 12th time in 13 games, 71-46 over Paul VI Catholic.
Wright then recovered from a relatively slow start and scored 26 points before going to the sidelines for almost all of the fourth quarter as the Cadets earned their seventh consecutive victory, 67-50 over ninth-ranked Gonzaga.
"No matter what happens, the D.C. area has been treated to two very good players over the last four years," DeMatha Coach Mike Jones said. "The two of those guys have really done a great job leading their teams to the championship game."
Neither team received much of a challenge last night before a crowd of 2,000 at American's Bender Arena. Center Jerai Grant (Clemson) and Freeman helped stake DeMatha to a 20-point lead in the first half. St. John's was masterful at the defensive end -- holding Gonzaga without a basket for 12 minutes -- in its lopsided victory.
Offensively, Wright and teammate Vlad Moldoveanu were so dominant that it seemed at times they were simply trying to top what the other one did.
Wright scored on a dazzling series of moves that included a pull-up three-pointer, a reverse layup and plenty of drives in transition. Moldoveanu punctuated his performance with a 28-foot three-pointer from the right wing. Moldoveanu, a 6-foot-10 forward bound for George Mason, tallied 17 points, 6 blocks and 5 rebounds. "They're very, very skilled players," St. John's Coach Paul DeStefano said. "They're the major reasons why we are where we are."
Forward Cameron Johnson led Gonzaga (20-9) with 12 points.
Grant, who was solid last year during the playoffs, was strong early, scoring 13 of his 14 points and getting six of his eight blocks in the first half for DeMatha (24-6). Freeman scored consecutive baskets to close the first quarter, then Kenny Tate added a three-point play, Jeff Peterson made a pull-up jumper and Byron Allen scored as the Stags opened up a 25-6 lead and never were challenged.
"When [Grant] leaves, he'll be our poster child" for improving, Jones said. "If you talk to people who saw Jerai in eighth grade, not that he was terrible, but he's really worked his tail off to be an ACC player."
Ronald Burks scored 15 points for Paul VI (17-12).
Road Trip:DeMatha and St. John's have accepted invitations to play in the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, which starts March 15 in Frostburg, Md.
Up Next: No. 2 DeMatha will play No. 4 St. John's in the WCAC championship game tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Gallaudet. DeMatha won both regular season meetings.