The trio of guards that paced the St. John’s boys’ basketball team throughout the season gathered at the end of the bench Tuesday night, recounting the comeback that led them to the trophy presentation that was about to begin. They soon came to a simple conclusion.
“We realize if all of us is on our game, it’s hard to beat us,” junior Anthony Cowan Jr. said.
Those words rang true again when this partnership, between Cowan and classmates Jeffrey Dowtin Jr. and Dejuan Clayton, propelled St. John’s to a 74-66 win over No. 2 Gonzaga in the D.C. State Athletic Association championship game in front of a lively crowd at the University of the District of Columbia.
The three teammates combined to score 57 points, and each came through in the clutch as St. John’s (25-8) overcame an 11-point halftime deficit.
Dowtin had a game-high 25 points, keeping the Cadets within striking distance during an otherwise sluggish start and then putting them over the top in the fourth quarter. He scored five straight points as part of an 11-0 run with just more than five minutes remaining in regulation, coming up with a crucial steal and hitting a three-pointer to give St. John’s a 61-60 lead.
“We were disappointed in ourselves because I think we should have won the WCAC championship,” Dowtin said. “To beat the team that won it, it was a good motivator for us.”
Cowan, meanwhile, helped St. John’s as it clawed back Tuesday.
After Gonzaga’s Chris Lykes (20 points) and Sam Miller (13) threatened to take over the game early — as they did in the latter stages when the Eagles (23-11) beat No. 3 DeMatha in the WCAC championship game earlier this month — Cowan methodically grabbed control of the momentum. With Maryland men’s basketball assistant Dustin Clark watching from the stands, the Terrapins recruit had 14 of his 21 points after halftime.
Gonzaga, which saw its 10-game win streak snapped, was never quite the same once senior Bryant Crawford (10 points) left the game briefly with a cramp in his leg late in the third quarter.
Clayton (12 points) then provided the closing push for the Cadets, contorting his body in mid-air for an and-one fast-break lay-in to give St. John’s a 70-63 advantage with under two minutes to go. He earned most valuable player honors.
“They make us very dynamic on both ends,” St. John’s Coach Sean McAloon said. Dowtin “was the driving force in the beginning, Anthony was in the middle and Dejuan finished it off in the end when it was most important.”
Both schools are scheduled to end their seasons at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament, which begins Friday in Cumberland, Md.