Gonzaga head coach Steve Turner knew if his team wanted to beat DeMatha on the road, sophomore forward Terrance Williams had to get the ball in his hands early.
“We talked about that at practice,” Turner said. “Let’s get the ball in his hands. It doesn’t mean he needs to score. Let’s get the ball in his hands, so he can feel like he is involved.”
During the opening minutes of the Purple Eagles (12-1, 4-1 Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) 71-62 victory over the Stags on Thursday, Williams made his presence felt, knocking down a trio of three pointers, which set the tone for the rest of his teammates.
“Once he saw the ball go through a couple of times, it got him going and pepped his step all night long,” Turner said.
Williams scored 13 of his team-high 22 points in the first half and kept Gonzaga ahead in a game where both teams were going back-and-forth, matching each other basket for basket.
“He’s a monster,” Gonzaga senior Myles Dread said, praising his fellow teammate. “We kept finding him and he made shots for us.”
“[Williams] going off like that got us going and more fired up,” Gonzaga sophomore Chuck Harris added.
Dread, who finished with 18 points (16 points in the second half), managed to quiet a sold out crowd when he helped extend the Purple Eagles’ one-point halftime lead to a 53-46 advantage by the end of the third quarter.
“I wasn’t playing confident,” Dread said, describing his two-point first half performance. “Once I started being confident and not trying to force shots, it was easy.”
DeMatha (12-2, 5-1 WCAC) closed in on Gonzaga in the fourth quarter after sophomore Earl Timberlake converted a pair of free throws and Justin Moore was fouled after making a layup, which cut the deficit to two points.
Dread shifted the momentum back in Gonzaga’s favor when he nail a three-pointer with less than six minutes to go in the game.
“They gutted out a tough win,” Turner said. “Road wins in our league are hard to come by.”
Turner was proud to see his players step up after falling to Paul VI in a road matchup on Tuesday.
“We lost a tough one on the at [Paul VI],” Turner said. “To see our guys step up to another level especially after a loss, I couldn’t be more proud.”
Purple Eagles’ junior Allin Blunt tallied 15 points, while Harris finished with 10 points in his first ever DeMatha-Gonzaga game.
Moore paced the Stags with 18 points and Timberlake registered 16 points. DeMatha sophomore big man Hunter Dickinson chipped in 14 points in the loss.