Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foul Trouble Doesn't Slow Down Eagles

Foul Trouble Doesn't Slow Down Eagles
Host Claims Gonzaga D.C. Classic Title
By B.J. Koubaroulis
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, December 15, 2008; E06

Gonzaga senior center Patrick Wolf hung his head as he pulled his white, sopping wet jersey over the bridge of his nose. His chest heaved as he tried to wipe the seemingly unstoppable stream of sweat that poured over his red-blazoned cheeks. Each step toward the locker room for his halftime rest looked painful.

A rugby player who is built more like an offensive lineman, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound redhead was trying to catch his breath after playing an uncharacteristically high number of first-half minutes in last night's 62-42 victory over St. John's (D.C.) in the Gonzaga D.C. Classic Tournament championship game at Bender Arena.

"I'm just not used to that many minutes, consecutively, but I'll take minutes when I can get them," said Wolf, who found himself in the thick of things midway through the second quarter as guard Tyler Thornton and starter Malcolm Lemmons were sent to the bench with two fouls apiece and the game tied at 17.

"This season is going to be defined by which guys step up," said Wolf, one of several role players who helped the No. 5 Eagles clinch their eighth title in the event.

As St. John's (3-2) looked to turn the Eagles' seventh turnover into a one-on-one, tiebreaking bucket, Wolf got back down court, slid his feet into position, crossed his arms over his chest and absorbed a game-swinging charge that brought the Eagles' bench to its feet and sparked a 9-6 quarter-closing run that put Gonzaga (5-1) up 26-23 at halftime.

Wolf was just one of several role players who helped the Eagles survive a strong St. John's push while Thornton (16 points) and Lemmons (10 points) were on the bench. Andrew Sterritt, Cahli Thomas and William Saffron played quality minutes and helped to alleviate defensive pressure on Princeton-bound forward Ian Hummer (13 points) and Cedric Lindsay -- a speedy guard who scored nine of Gonzaga's 15 second-quarter points and finished with a game-high 17.

"This is a game that we needed so that we can see who was going to step up when things got hectic," said Thornton, who returned in the third and scored 15 of his 16 to fuel a game-clinching 36-19 second half run. "We try not to compare ourselves to last year, but we can have the same success. We just have to approach it in a different way."

Last season, the Purple Eagles went 34-1 in winning the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference regular season, WCAC tournament championship, D.C. City Title game and the prestigious Alhambra Catholic Invitational tournament. Gonzaga closed the season on a dominant 17-game winning streak en route to The Post's No. 1 ranking as well as a number of top-five national rankings.

Wolf, Thomas and Sterritt are "all guys that battled on a team last year that won it all, and now it's their turn," Gonzaga Coach Steve Turner said.

In a third-place consolation meeting between two area teams, No. 14 Coolidge (5-2) rolled past Bullis (2-4), 68-43, on the strength of Florida Atlantic-bound senior forward Andre Mattison's 10 points, 10 blocks and 7 rebounds.

"He's going to be the focal point of our interior this year," Coach Vaughn Jones said.

No comments: