In a battle of super-heavyweights Paul VI completed it's perfect WCAC season, squeaking by DeMatha, 55-54 in a thriller at a sold out Bender Arena. It was PVI's third victory of the year over the 2011 WCAC champs, DeMatha. It was the second time this year that Patrick Holloway beat the Stags with a game winner.
Expectations were very high for Paul VI coming into the 2011-12 season. In fact Capitol Hoops had Paul VI ranked as the top WCAC team in our very first rankings back in December. But to complete the regular season undefeated and to go on to win the WCAC championship was not even a thought. On Monday night Paul VI had an opportunity to do just that. But standing in the way was perhaps the most storied basketball powerhouse in the DC-metro area; Hyattsville's DeMatha Stags.
The two teams met twice during the regular season. The first time they met back on January 27th Paul VI got a desperation 3-pointer from senior guard Patrick Holloway to beat the Stags by two points. In their next meeting on February 19th Paul VI won 58-55 in the final game of the regular season. The victory gave PVI an undefeated WCAC regular season, the first time a team other then DeMatha had accomplished the feat in league history. Along the way, the Panthers had a handful of tough tests, notably their epic double over-time victory at Gonzaga on February 12th, their over-time victory at O'Connell on February 3rd, and their over-time victory at Good Counsel on February 10th, but they were able to win them all.
In Patrick Holloway's words "People were saying if we lost this game the whole season going undefeated wouldn't have meant anything, we had to finish." Holloway and the Panthers would do just that, but DeMatha put up one hell of a fight. The game started out very fast paced. In fact buckets were scored on six of the first seven possessions of the game. At the end of one PVI held a 23-18 advantage. The second quarter slowed down a bit. DeMatha senior Marcellous Bell caught fire at the end of the quarter hitting a pair of three's in the final minute to cut the defect to 3. PVI led 34-31 at the break.
DeMatha came out hot in the third quarter. They scored five quick points to open up the half and retake the lead before a quick Panther time-out. They would only score six points in the rest of the quarter and after 3 PVI led 45-40. The fourth quarter will be remember as one of the best fourth quarter's in recent memory. The Panthers seemed to be in control until DeMatha made a run about half way through the quarter. The Stags tied it on a monster BeeJay Anya dunk with 2:36 remaining in the game. The teams exchanged four scoreless possessions and with 33 seconds remaining PVI senior Coleman Johnson nailed a 16 footer to give PVI a two point lead. After a Stag time-out DeMatha worked it around to Jairus Lyles who put his head down and drove to the rack. As he got fouled he flipped it up towards the bucket and it dropped. Lyles knocked down the free throw to put the Stags up by one with 19.4 on the clock. PVI went right to work, no time-out. Senior point guard Tilman Dunbar ran a dribble handoff to Holloway who drove left, gave a head fake, got his defender up in the air, and nailed a contested, off balanced, fade-away from eight feet with 10.5 seconds to go. James Robinson would race the ball up the floor and DeMatha coach Mike Jones would call a time-out with 2.7 seconds on the clock.
As the crowd rose to their feet, everything was on the line. Could DeMatha put an end to PVI's undefeated WCAC season. Could PVI get one defensive stop and earn a shot to play in their first City Title; The DCIAA champion Coolidge Colts looked on. Jairus Lyles inbounded the ball to Pittsburg bound James Robinson at the top of the key. Three dribbles to his left. It was great clock management by Robinson who let go of the ball with three tenths of a second on the clock. It was a fade away jumper from the left elbow -- right on line ..... front iron, no good. From underneath the basket I thought it was good, I really did. But it wasn't to be and PVI fans stormed the court, celebrating the perfect season culminating with the school's first ever WCAC championship.
With the victory the Panthers are set to face DCIAA champion Coolidge. There are going to be some great match-ups in that ball game. Watching Stanford Robinson and De'Shaun Morman square off is going to be real exciting. The two players play such a similar game. Khalen Cumberlander and Patrick Holloway will be another superb match-up. Which of the ultra-quick point guards will have their way, Omar Roberts or Tilman Dunbar? Can Jade Dade hang with Jamall Robinson and Marcus Derrickson? And who will win the battle down on the block between Coleman Johnson and Maurice Jeffers? Coolidge is athletic. Coolidge is big. Coolidge may not be as deep as PVI, but Coolidge can play. Paul VI is certainly the favorite, the WCAC always is. It should be a phenomenal City Title game. It had been rumored that the Verizon Center was not able to host the game because of scheduling conflicts. Apparently, the conflicts have worked themselves out and the game is now tentatively scheduled for March 12, at Verizon.