With 6:23 left in the game, Gonzaga Coach Steve Turner looked up at the scoreboard, saw a two-point lead stretched across it and spun around to face his bench.
"You two, go!" Turner yelled, and Myles Dread and Terrance Williams sprung up and tiptoed to the scorer's table. With DeMatha closing and its home crowd growing louder with each made basket in a Washington Catholic Athletic Conference showdown, Turner turned to Dread and Williams to finish off No. 2 Gonzaga's eventual 71-62 win in Hyattsville on Thursday night. Dread, who scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, canned a three-pointer on the next possession. Williams, a 6-foot-7 sophomore who finished with a game-high 22 points, later iced the game with four straight free throws.
Their combined 40 points was what the Eagles (12-1, 4-1 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) needed to stave off No. 1 DeMatha's fourth-quarter push and get back on track after falling to No. 3 Paul VI on Tuesday. DeMatha (12-2, 5-1) was paced by 18 points from junior guard Justin Moore and 16 from sophomore guard Earl Timberlake.
"It's just another game," Dread, a senior guard committed to Penn State, said when asked what it meant to beat the Stags on their home court.
It didn't feel like just another game. Shortly after 6:30 p.m., an hour before tip-off, cars circled the surrounding neighborhoods searching for parking spots. Fans were being turned away from the door as the junior varsity game ended. When the varsity game began, the bleachers were stuffed and people lined the balcony ringing the top of the stands. Georgetown Coach Patrick Ewing was in attendance.
Williams hit three first-quarter threes to give Gonzaga an early edge, but Dread was quieted as DeMatha climbed back into the game. At the start of the third quarter, Dread found a sliver of space in front of Gonzaga's bench, cocked the ball above his right shoulder and unleashed a shot.
"Come on, make this one!" Turner shouted from over Dread's left shoulder. And when it swished through the net, Dread nodded at his coach while Turner pumped his fist. Dread went on to hit two more threes from the same spot as the Eagles clung to a lead that never grew larger than 10 points.
Yet all that mattered, when the final buzzer sounded and the Gonzaga student section spilled onto the court, was the final margin.
"It's the WCAC, we're going to have a battle every night," Dread said, sweat still dripping off his face. "DeMatha-Gonzaga, it's always going to be a good game. Historically, it's always going to be a good game."