Paul VI 2023 guard DeShawn Harris-Smith. [FILE PHOTO]
ARLINGTON, VA – The #1 ranked (MaxPreps & USA Today) Paul VI Panthers once again flexed their muscles in a 101-73 win against Bishop O'Connell in a huge rivalry game Tuesday before the WCAC Playoffs.
Paul VI leads the WCAC standings with a perfect 13-0 record (25-1 overall) and came in with a 17-game winning streak on the line, so they had to be on their game if they wanted it to continue.
En route to a game-high 41 points, PVI 2023 guard and Maryland commit DeShawn Harris-Smith got the game started right away with a strong layup after a beautiful one-touch pass from Duke commit Darren Harris. Following the Panthers' quick 7-0 run, Quincy Wadley hit two 3-pointers in a row for the Knights, cutting the early lead to 7-6.
After a few back-and-forth buckets, Paul VI struggled to keep the Knights off the 3-point line, as Jadyn Harris and Wadley both hit threes in the first quarter.
Despite this, PVI led 29-23 at the end of the first quarter.
With Paul VI leading 33-26 after a Harris-Smith dunk, the tides began to turn in O'Connell's favor.
The Knights used a full-court press to slow down their opponent's frenetic pace, causing the Panthers some uncertainty for one of the few times this season.
O'Connell got another strong offensive quarter from junior Jadyn Harris, who poured in two more 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 17 first-half points.
Corey Caulker's steady point guard play as he directed the offense and got players in their spots was a big reason for Bishop O'Connell's strong second quarter.
This game was a tale of two halves, with O'Connell leading by one point at halftime thanks to their stellar jump shooting. The Knights relied heavily on three-pointers as they shot 11-18 from 3 in the first half.
Jadyn Harris did everything he could to keep his team in the game, hitting five 3-pointers in the first half and finishing with a team-high 24 points.
But it wasn't enough for O'Connell, as the Panthers completely shut down the Knights in the third quarter, outscoring them 34-9.
After the game, Harris-Smith said slowing O’Connell’s lights-out 3-points shooting was a key to the second half.
“Going into halftime they were like 11-for-18 from 3,” he said, “So the biggest thing was we came in here and we had to press up on the ball and make them try to drive and finish over our bigs.”
We’re going to call this quarter the “DeShawn Harris-Smith quarter," as he put the team on his back with 17 of his points. As Harris-Smith and Pat Ngongba (16 points) imposed their will on the minute O'Connell defense, it was clear that Coach Glenn Farello placed an emphasis on ambushing the paint.
“Yeah, I think that this is a very mature group,” Farello said. “They play really well together, they don't get rattled, you know, and now we play such a great non-conference schedule that they play against great teams and play in big moments. So you're not going to get wrapped by a situation in our league. We respect our league and respect how hard it is. So that's why I'm not surprised by how these guys handled themselves. And they were able to take themselves to another level.”
PVI basketball is a spectacle to behold due to the mesmerizing basketball they play. Their side-to-side playmaking abilities, suffocating defense, strong tenacity, and desire to prevail set them apart from the rest of the WCAC.
Paul VI ends their WCAC regular season against the DeMatha Stags, as O’Connell end theirs against the Heights School.