On a team stocked with scorers, Jamall Robinson knows his role for top-ranked Paul VI Catholic. The junior forward is supposed to play good defense and get to the basket when he can while looking to distribute the ball to teammates in good position offensively.
Recently, though, Robinson had been spending extra time in practice working on his perimeter shooting, and it paid off Tuesday night against second-ranked Gonzaga. Robinson matched a career-high with three three-pointers and scored a season-high 17 points to lead the host Panthers to a 66-53 victory over the short-handed Eagles before an overflow crowd of 1,400 in Fairfax.
“I can [score] when my team needs me,” Robinson said. “But I’m more of a drive and kick it out.”
Senior guard Patrick Holloway, a George Mason recruit whose buzzer-beater three-pointer knocked off third-ranked DeMatha in Paul VI’s previous game, finished with 16 points, and senior guard Tilman Dunbar, a Navy recruit, had 15 points and five assists.
The Panthers’ leading scorer, forward Stanford Robinson (no relation to Jamall), was held to just nine points.
It was the matchup of top juniors Stanford Robinson and Gonzaga’s Kris Jenkins that attracted several college coaches, including Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon and Villanova’s Jay Wright.
While Jenkins scored 18 points as the Eagles played without starting guards Nate Britt (bruised calf) and Tavon Blackmon (mild concussion), Jamall Robinson made perhaps the biggest splash. Entering averaging 5.5 points per game, he made all of his three-pointers in the game’s first 10 minutes and continually hustled all over the floor.
As Gonzaga (19-2, 8-2 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) tried to narrow the deficit midway through the fourth quarter, the 6-foot-5 Robinson set up the game-breaking play. He squared up in the right corner while being guarded by Jenkins and dribbled toward the middle of the court before passing to Holloway, whose three-pointer from the left wing gave the Panthers a 58-46 lead.
It was a feel-good play for Robinson, who battled injuries during his first two seasons at Paul VI. As a freshman, he suffered a collapsed lung and later broke his thumb against Gonzaga. Last year, the lung collapsed again, requiring surgery that forced him to miss a month of the season.
“He’s such a tough kid that he actually played through it before we diagnosed it,” Panthers Coach Glenn Farello said, noting that Robinson is drawing attention from many mid-major college teams. “He does everything for us. He’s our best defender and brings energy. And his offensive game continues to increase. . . . He’s very accepting of his role.”
While the victory over DeMatha led to a raucous on-court celebration, Tuesday’s postgame atmosphere was much more muted as the Panthers (19-2, 11-0) cemented their place atop the WCAC. It was the first time since the 2003-04 season that Paul VI has beaten league powers DeMatha and Gonzaga in the same season.
“Who doesn’t belong traditionally? Paul VI,” Farello said. “But we were able to sell the dream. They want to build history. I wanted to build what those programs have done.
“Of course, the ultimate is to get that ring.”