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WCAC Quarterfinal Recaps

By Marcus Helton, 02/25/23, 10:30PM EST


DeMatha, Paul VI, St. John's and Gonzaga advanced to Sunday's semifinals.

Paul VI (VA) 2024 guard Darren Harris. [MARCUS HELTON]

WASHINGTON, DC - After a multi-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference quarterfinals were back on the campus of  Gallaudet University on Saturday.

It was a successful return, as an energetic crowd saw DeMatha (MD), Paul VI (Va.), St. John’s (DC) and Gonzaga (DC) punch their tickets to Sunday’s semifinals at American University.

“It feels good,” St. John’s 2023 guard Malik Mack said of advancing to the semis. “Everybody’s goal is to win a  championship, so to get one step closer is an amazing feeling for sure.”

Here’s a recap of Saturday’s action:


DeMatha’s win came just a week after a controversial 70-69 loss at O’Connell on February 18, which saw a last-second bucket by 2024 forward Malcolm Thomas wiped away by the referees when they ruled that there wasn’t enough time on the clock for him to catch and shoot.

“We were in kill mode coming in, because we realized we got cheated last week,” Thomas said Saturday. “And this time we had to come in and kill.”

Thomas definitely looked motivated, finishing with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, while 2023 guard Jaden Winston had 15 points and 4 steals, including a critical swipe and lay-in in the final minute.

“The play was there to be made and I had to make it - I knew it had to be me,” Winston said. “Our guys were all locked in and we’ve been here before, so I know the feeling of losing a game like this. So the play was there and opportunity presented itself, and I had to make the play.”

O’Connell led 17-15 after one quarter and 42-36 at the half. The Stags made their move in the third quarter, outscoring the Knights 18-9 in the frame to take a 54-51 lead going into the fourth.

O’Connell’s Jadyn Harris made two free throws with 31.9 seconds remaining to tie the game at 62-62, but on the ensuing possession Thomas caught a lob from Mason So and threw down a dunk to give the Stags the lead for good with 25 seconds to go.

“That was just team chemistry right there,” Thomas said of the connection. “We do this every day in practice. We’re on the move doing this all the time - we do it on the road, we do it while at home. That’s a play that we know very well, and with the lob my teammates are very confident in my catching ability, so I think we executed it pretty well.”

O’Connell eventually had a baseline inbounds under their basket with 4.7 seconds to go, trailing by one. They couldn’t get it in and called timeout but didn’t have any remaining, resulting in a technical foul. Winston made both shots to make it 66-63.

“[The energy was] really high,” Winston said. “It was a must-win game for us, especially after last week, so we knew to stay poised. We knew it was going to be a battle - they weren’t going to lay down and we knew that. It was a game of runs, but we started together and pulled through.”

Harris finished with 15 points to lead the Knights. Quincey Wadley had 14, Corey Caulker 12 - to go with 6 assists - and Adam Oumiddoch added 10.


After a fairly tight first half, the defending WCAC champion Panthers blew things open in the second to remain undefeated against league foes and set up a semifinal matchup with DeMatha.

Darren Harris had 23 points and hit five 3-pointers to lead Paul VI, which got 15 points and 7 rebounds from 2-24 wing Isaiah Abraham and 12 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists from 2023 guard DeShawn Harris-Smith.

Paul VI led 19-15 after one quarter and 36-30 at the break as the Cardinals hung tough behind 2026 guard Silas Devonish.

The Panthers seized control in the third quarter, outsourcing the Cardinals 24-10 to take a 60-40 lead. Harris was integral to that run with his perimeter shooting.

“I mean, we just stick together,” Harris, a Duke commit, said. “We have a lot of [tough] games in our conference and they gave us their best shot early, but we know we’ve got a deep team, and we can keep wearing them down and eventually they’ll fold. So we just stuck together and at halftime we had a man-to-man speech - DaShawn, our leader, got into us a little bit - so we just came out motivated. We knew if we played our hardest and kept going, they would fold.”

The Maryland-bound Harris-Smith helped to set the tone as the Panthers emphatically turned away the Cardinals’ upset bid.

“It's the WCAC Playoffs, everyday’s going to play hard,” he said. “It's win or go home and everybody’s going to come in and try to play their hardest, so you're going to get everybody’s best basketball  this time of year. So that’s what they did; they came out in the first quarter and started hitting shots and stuff. I think we just had to stay poised and stay locked in together, and I feel like I wasn’t being as aggressive as I should have when they were in that zone. I feel like I was being too passive at the high post, so in the second half I just told myself when I get back in I’m just going to try to get myself going and get a few layups and easy shots for our team because we were settling for a lot of 3’s.”

Devonish had 18 points to lead the Cardinals.

St. John's (DC) 2023 guard Malik Mack. [MARCUS HELTON]


The Cadets held off a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Falcons, who trimmed a double-digit deficit down to two with 22 seconds remaining but couldn’t get any closer.

Good Counsel stunned St. John’s in DC during the regular season, and that loss was fresh in the Cadets’ minds, star forward Donnie Freeman said.

“There was a lot of preparation that we had going into this game,” he said. “They jumped us at our house and we knew they were going to try to jump us this time, so we had to throw the first punch. It was a lot of preparation and we came together as a family, as a team and as a brotherhood to get it done.”

St. John’s stormed out to an early 16-4 lead, and were up 22-9 after the first quarter and 32-22 at halftime.

Good Counsel wouldn’t go away, though, and stayed within striking distance - they trailed 48-39 after three quarters - before making their move in the fourth. The Falcons trimmed the SJC lead to five on several occasions, but the Cadets always responded. That was until GC guard Rieco Hellams hit a 3-pointer and was fouled with 22.3 seconds to go, making the free throw to cut the deficit to 65-63.

Harvard-bound St. John’s guard Malik Mack calmly made a pair of free throws with 21.6 to go to give the Cadets a 67-63 cushion, and Freeman made another foul shot to seal the deal.

“We knew they were going to make a run,” Mack said, “It’s a playoff game so they were going to give it their all and they weren’t going to quit. So we just knew we had to stay together and keep playing as a team. They were going to foul late in the game, so make sure we make our free throws and then rebound and only give them one shot and one possession.”

Daquan Davis led the Cadets with 19 points, while Mack had 17 and Ray Watts 10.

Corey Chesley had 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Falcons, who got 14 points from Jordan Brathwaite and 10 from Hellams.

Gonzaga (DC) 2025 guard Nyk Lewis. [MARCUS HELTON]


The night’s final game proved to be anticlimactic, as Gonzaga used a third-quarter run to seize control and never looked back.

The Eagles trailed by six points at halftime, but outscored the Mustangs 22-10 in the third quarter to take the lead.

“We just wanted to cut the head off and, like, get their point guard [Jeremiah Quigley] out of the game and try to make it more physical and way harder for him,” Gonzaga point guard Nyk Lewis said. “Once we started doing that, we got a lot of energy and we just built from there. When we cut the head off, they deflated.”

McNamara led 15-12 after one quarter and 33-27 at the half.

Gonzaga sliced the lead down after the break, eventually taking the lead at 38-37 on a Lewis bucket with 3:35 remaining in the third. The teams exchanged the lead a few times on the ensuing possessions, but after Derek Dixon put the Eagles up 43-41 on a 3-pointer with 1:50 to go, Gonzaga never trailed again. They led 49-43 after three quarters.

Dixon had 16 points to lead Gonzaga, while Lewis had 15, Ryan Sabol 12 and Thomas Batties 10.

Quigley finished with 16 points to lead the Mustangs, while 2026 forward Jalyn Collingwood had 10.