In a nod to his Italian heritage, Farello told the No. 3 Panthers he was known for thinking about two things: pasta and revenge.
“And I’m not talking about lasagna recipes right now,” Farello quipped.
That meant Paul VI — which earned a 67-53 win on its home court in Fairfax — played for payback against the Eagles, who won last year’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championship after the teams split the league’s regular season title.
“Absolutely we use that as motivation,” Farello said. “Obviously, it doesn’t take away the sting from last year, and we’ll continue to have a chip on our shoulder. This team does have a chip on their shoulder, and I think it’s going to continue to drive us.”
After leading all scorers with 18 points, Panthers guard Brandon Slater reflected on last year’s shortcoming, too.
“They stole our dream,” the Villanova commit said of Gonzaga’s 68-55 tournament title victory.
So it was a small consolation, Slater said, that the Panthers (11-2, 4-0 WCAC) handed the Eagles (11-1, 3-1) their first loss of the season before Gonzaga faces No. 1 DeMatha on Thursday.
The Panthers — who also had guards Jeremy Roach (17 points) and Trevor Keels (14 points) score in double digits — established a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in the second quarter.
After Paul VI fell behind 19-17, Slater scored eight points in the period to power a 16-5 run. The surge came with Gonzaga forward Myles Dread, a Penn State commit, on the bench in foul trouble and forward Terrance Williams, who led Gonzaga with 12 points, scoring just two in the quarter.
“Our coaches, they told us,” Slater said. “They were like, ‘If you try to keep their two best players under wraps, it’ll happen just like that.’ ”
Farello said his players had not capitalized on opposing stars’ struggles earlier this season, so he was pleased with their execution in the first of two regular season meetings with the Eagles. The second is at Gonzaga on Feb. 9.
Limiting Gonzaga’s top players led to another check on what Farello dubbed Paul VI’s “list.”
The Panthers won at St. John’s last week, avenging a 29-point loss on the Cadets’ court last year, and defeated Oak Ridge (Fla.) in a tournament in Georgia over the holiday break to draw even after Oak Ridge beat them on a half-court buzzer-beater in early December.
“We have our list, and I think it’s important to have out list,” Farello said. “It’s good motivation for our kids.”
Two weeks ago, in a win over Lake Taylor (Va.), McNamara junior forward Jakia Brown-Turner reached 1,000 career points. It was a celebratory moment for the surging Mustangs. On Tuesday night, they got to experience it again.
Junior guard Aliyah Matharu joined her teammate in the 1,000-point club, scoring 11 points in a 73-44 win over Elizabeth Seton.
“She’s a true lead guard. She can shoot it from distance, she can make plays off the dribble,” McNamara Coach Frank Oliver said. “And her basketball IQ keeps her two plays ahead at all times.”
It’s been a winter of celebrations so far for McNamara. Tuesday’s win moves the Mustangs to 11-1 overall and 6-0 in the fierce WCAC. Against Elizabeth Seton (5-6, 1-5), Brown-Turner led the way with 22 points and the Mustangs established a 19-point lead by halftime.
“On the pregame board, we wrote ‘effort and execution.’ They did that tonight. They played good defense and contested a lot of shots,” Oliver said.