Entering this season, Lewis Djonkam’s biggest goal was simply to make the varsity basketball team at O’Connell. The dream was no sure thing for the sophomore forward, which is why even 22 games into the season, Djonkam still wears a relieved smile when speaking about his current role on the defending Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion Knights.
And from the moment Djonkam entered Friday’s contest at No. 2 Paul VI, the Knights fed off the energy of the hungry sophomore, who tangled in the paint for critical rebounds and scored 22 points to lead the No. 5 Knights to a 73-66 win in Fairfax.
“It’s amazing,” Djonkam said. “Starting off, it didn’t look like I’d be on varsity. But I made it, and I’m just happy to be a part of it all.”
Melo Trimble helped lay the foundation for Djonkam’s big night by getting loose for 16 first-half points on an array of jump shots and drives to the rim, forcing Paul VI to focus even more of its attention on the McDonald’s all-American.
As Trimble continued to penetrate into the lane and draw extra defenders, Djonkam was left open for several midrange jumpers and easy layups that yielded eight third-quarter points and helped O’Connell build a 49-46 lead.
“Lewis stepped up big tonight,” Trimble said. “When we were out there, I told him, ‘Oh Lew, you’re trying to play tonight, huh?’ ”
Kevin Dorsey worked to infuse a similar spark into Paul VI (19-5, 11-3 in WCAC), aggressively attacking the rim and converting several three-point plays on his way to a 20-point performance. The junior guard’s pull-up jumper with about four minutes remaining punctuated a 12-4 run that gave the Panthers their first lead since the second quarter.
But the advantage was short-lived. Trimble drained a deep three-pointer in transition and Djonkam powered his way inside for another basket to make it 65-60 for the Knights.
“I told myself, no matter what, I was going to take that three,” said Trimble, who finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. “I was just feeling it at the time.”
Still, the Panthers did their part to make the Knights (15-7, 13-1) feel anything but comfortable, scoring consecutive buckets and forcing a tough O’Connell shot that ricocheted off the rim with less than one minute to play.
But Djonkam snatched the offensive rebound and tossed it to Trimble, whose floater helped seal the Knights’ season sweep of their WCAC rivals.
“When I go in, I just try to play as hard as I can and go for rebounds,” Djonkam said. “Personally, I felt I was hustling more than they were, and I tried to come up with some big plays.”