On most teams, DeMatha senior Reggie Gardner likely would be a starter, his soft touch from the outside and explosive ability allowing him to fill up the stat sheet. But with McDonald’s all-American Markelle Fultz and two other Division I recruits crowding DeMatha’s backcourt, Gardner has had to remain patient.
During Saturday’s Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament championship, in his final game at DeMatha, Gardner seized the moment. The senior guard drained seven three-pointers and scored a season-high 23 points to lead No. 4 DeMatha to a 71-56 win against John Carroll at Frostburg State University.
“They paid a lot of attention to Markelle and Ryan [Allen] and when they got in the lane, they kicked it out to me and I was ready,” Gardner said. “After I hit the first one, it felt good.”
After the Patriots cut DeMatha’s lead to three entering the fourth quarter, Gardner’s barrage of threes, along with the play of tournament MVP D.J. Harvey (11 points, 11 rebounds), helped DeMatha (32-5) pull away for its second straight Alhambra title and 23rd overall tournament crown.
Three weeks after losing its third straight WCAC final, the repeat Alhambra championship provided some sense of redemption, especially for DeMatha’s seniors, whom Stags Coach Mike Jones lauded for their character and resilience.
Fultz again embodied the team’s fortitude Saturday. Hounded by the Patriots’ box-and-one defense, the Washington-bound guard dished out 11 assists — most of them to the hot-handed Gardner — to match his total during last week’s Maryland Private Schools tournament championship win.
“Our goal is to win every game we play, so after [the WCAC final], we had a chip on our shoulder,” Gardner said. “It’s a great feeling to win Alhambra again with these guys.”
In the consolation bracket, No. 2 St. John’s defeated Paul VI, 82-74, to take third place in the tournament, while No. 15 Gonzaga fell, 63-62, to Mount St. Joseph on a last-second shot in the fifth-place game.