On Sunday afternoon Paul VI did what no WCAC team has done since the 2004-05 season; Go undefeated in one of the toughest leagues in the country. In fact Paul VI is the first team other then DeMatha (who has done it multiple times) to finish the regular season undefeated. It was another down-to-the-wire nail biter, as so many of Paul VI's recent games have been.
For DeMatha it was senior night where 8 seniors (7 players and one manager) were honored in a nice presentation before the game. Five DeMatha seniors started the game. Normal starters Jerami Grant and James Robinson were in the line-up along with three players who normal receive spot duty. One of these players, Matthew Smith had a first quarter for the ages. Smith ended up as DeMatha's third leading scorer in the game. All eight of his points came in a four possession span just minutes in to the game. First, Smith hit a righty runner along the base-line (he is a lefty). Two possessions later he hit a contested 3-pointer right in front of the Paul VI bench. On the next possession he was almost in the exact spot as his first three but about 18 inches deeper, and he caught and fired without hesitation like he was Reggie Miller and connected. The DeMatha faithful absolutely lost it. 8 points in less then a minute for senior Matthew Smith on senior night. In fact, coming in to this game Smith had only 19 points in the season. It was a game he will remember for the rest of his life. Smith would make multiple appearances later in the first half.
Like the first time these two teams met back on January 27th, this was a back and forth affair. Neither team would get out to a double digit lead. Paul VI finally made a run at the end of the third quarter. They would take a 50-43 lead in to the 4th quarter. But DeMatha was resilient and would climb all the way back and take a one point lead at 55-54 on a BeeJay Anya put back with just over two minutes to go. Paul VI's Jamall Robinson would find Coleman Johnson for a foul line jumper with 1:21 remaining to give the Panthers a lead they would never relinquish. DeMatha would have two shots to recapture the lead but it wasn't to be. DeMatha guard Marcellous Bell would miss a baseline three with a minute to go. Following a Paul VI time-out junior Stanford Robinson would tip in his own miss with 21.2 second to go to stretch the PVI lead out to three. Following a DeMatha time-out the Stags would struggle to get a good look. Marcellous Bell would have his desperation three partially blocked as time expired and Paul VI had pulled off the feat; 16-0 in WCAC play.
But it will be all for nothing if the Panthers can't continue what they've done in the post-season. Paul VI will have the #1 seed in the WCAC tournament and an inside track at earning a shot to play in the Abe Pollin City Title Game vs the DCIAA champion. The tournament begins on Friday. The Championship will be played next Monday, February 27th at Bender Arena, on the American University Campus.
DeMatha was led by their two seniors Jerami Grant and James Robinson who scored 15 and 14 respectively. Robinson who recently scored his 1000th career point lost just his second game on his home court on Sunday afternoon. Robinson has been on the varsity for four years, and has been a three year starter. Paul VI had six players score between 6 and 12 points. They were led by Coleman Johnson's 12. There was a star studded line-up of D-1 coaches in attendance on Sunday. Rick Pitino (Louisville), Mark Turgeon (Maryland), Paul Hewitt (George Mason), Tony Bennet (Virginia), and Mike Lonergan (George Washington) were all in attendance. It is projected that up to 14 players who played in Sunday's game can earn division-1 scholarships.