The WCAC (Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) playoffs are officially here. The Play-In rounds have already happened and now we get into the quarterfinals. There are a lot of questions heading into the weekend. Will DeMatha finally win the conference championship? Can Gonzaga repeat? Will Paul VI make it out of the first round? To answer some of these questions and make some predictions, I’m going to play a little game of fact or fiction.
Bishop McNamara makes it to the semifinals
The Mustangs have all the tools they need to make a run at the WCAC Championship. Point guard Jamir Moultrie has proven to be one of the top players in the conference as he is averaging 18.3 points per game. Junior Ernest Jenkins has truly develop into a very talented shooter. Then they also got players like Jamar Watson, Sam Green, Mahki Mitchell, and Johnathan McGriff.
Bishop McNamara has the talent to compete with the best in the conference but it all depends on what McNamara team that will show up in the playoffs. There have been times where the Mustangs will give teams a run for their money and manage pull off an upset. For example, they knocked of Paul VI twice during the regular season. But there are times when Bishop McNamara will look like a last place team.
When they played DeMatha this season, the Mustangs lost by more than 20 points in both games. In their first meeting against Gonzaga, Bishop McNamara lost 84-50. They are 0-8 against the top four teams in the conference and lost four of their last six games. McNamara’s first game of the playoffs is against a Bishop O’Connell team that beat them twice. So they are running into trouble in their first game.
McNamara’s struggle against the top teams in the conference will make it hard for them to make a cinderella run.
Paul VI falls to Gonzaga in the Quarterfinals
It’s been another ok season for Paul VI. They finished the regular season with a 17-10 record and a 9-7 conference record. Despite having McDonalds All-American VJ King, guard Aaron Thompson, rising star Brandon Slater and Corey Manigault, the Panthers couldn’t finish in the top five of the conference. But hey, the WCAC is arguably one of the toughest high school basketball conferences in the country.
Since the Panthers are in the sixth seed, they will have to take on Gonzaga. Paul VI split the season series between the Purple Eagles as they lost in the first matchup and won the second. This quarterfinal game is like a semifinal game. Both teams is filled with good players that can make it a competitive contest. But you got to like Gonzaga chances in this one. Point guard Chris Lykes has shown he can take over a game with his scoring and expect that to happen in this game. Once Lykes gets going, there is no stopping him especially from behind the arc. Then you can’t forget guard Prentiss Hubb who made himself known during last years playoffs.
DeMatha wins their 40th WCAC Championship
DeMatha Catholic High School has establish themselves as the most successful basketball program in the conference. They have won more conference, state, and national championships than any team. But lately winning the WCAC crown has been hard for head coach Mike Jones and his team. The Stags doesn’t have a problem making it to the championship. They made an appearance in the WCAC Championship in three of the last four years but never came away as victors.
In 2012, former Paul VI guard Patrick Holloway hit a game winner to beat a DeMatha team that featured players like James Robinson, Jerami Grant, and BeeJay Anya. After not making an appearance in 2013, the Stags made it back to the championship in 2014 and faced Paul VI once again and lost.
Last year, DeMatha looked like they were going to run away with the championship as they had a 13 point lead against Gonzaga early in the third quarter. That didn’t stop the Purple Eagles from coming back and beating DeMatha in double overtime.
Now its 2016, and once again DeMatha has another shot at winning their 40th conference championship. The way the team is set up, the Stags should be favorites to go all the way. They are led by Washington bound Markelle Fultz who has chance to win the Naismith High School Boy’s Basketball Player of the Year award. DJ Harvey is one of the top players in the 2017 class. Nate Darling is a sniper from behind the arc, and guard Ryan Allen has develop into a solid guard. Then you can’t forget players like Kellon Taylor and Josh Carlton.
There is no question that DeMatha wins the first round but the semifinals will be their greatest test. The Stags will either face Paul VI or their rival Gonzaga. Both teams will pose a threat to DeMatha and give them a hard time. Whoever they play in the semifinals on Saturday will make DeMatha work for the win. But the Stags has a better chance to beat Paul VI than Gonzaga. Even if they beat Paul VI or Gonzaga, there is a good chance DeMatha will face St. John’s who caused them trouble during the regular season.
I’m not writing DeMatha off. In fact, I think they have a good chance at beating Gonzaga and moving on to the final game. But if that’s the case, DeMatha will face St. John’s and that’s where they will run into major problems.
Guard play will be the key to teams success
You can make an argument that the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference is a guard heavy conference. If you go through each teams roster, most of their top players are guards. Take DeMatha as an example. The Stags have four guards in their starting lineup. Bishop McNamara’s best player is point guard Jamir Moultrie, and St. John’s back court have helped them become the best team in the WCAC.
With that being said, guard play will be a big key for teams in the playoffs. This really doesn’t apply to Paul VI since their top scorer is forward VJ King but they will need the help of players like Aaron Thompson, Myles Douglass, and Brandon Slater if they want to make a run at the title. Guards Anthony Cowan Jr. (St. John’s) and Chris Lykes are two point guards that can hurt opponents with their scoring ability. If the two of them play the way they are capable of playing, teams will be in trouble.
Each team will need their guards to take their game to another level if they want to compete in the playoffs.
Gonzaga makes it back to the WCAC Championship and defeats St. John’s
No matter who makes it to the WCAC Championship, it’s going to be a great game. To see Gonzaga and St. John’s face each other will be equal to watching a rematch of last years championship game. The Cadets defeated Gonzaga twice this year. The first time was a 75-72 victory in overtime on Jan. 5. Chris Lykes finished the game with 28 points and made a three-pointer in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. It was another close game the second time but St. John’s was able to win 61-57. Anthony Cowan scored 17 points in the victory while his teammate Jeff Dowtin had 21 points.
Those two games are a sign that it will be an exciting championship game if Gonzaga and St. John’s face each other. The point guard matchup of Anthony Cowan and Chris Lykes will be worth watching. To see two of the conferences premier scorers going at it on the big stage should be a reason to go to American University on Monday.
Let’s say they do face each other. Who will win? Most will pick St. John’s because they are No. 1 in the WCAC and dominated Gonzaga in the regular season. But if you go back to last year, DeMatha beat Gonzaga in both regular season games yet the Purple Eagles walked away as champions in the end.
If the championship does come down to these teams, the biggest thing that will decide the winner is who wants it more. Gonzaga showed they wanted it more in the 2015 championship. I think the Purple Eagles will bring back that same fire and intensity and win their second straight WCAC Championship.
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