"It's All About The Game"
Eagles make the plays
Ron Bailey, Publisher
Late, key offensive and defensive plays seal win for Gonzaga.
January 21, 2016 - When Gonzaga (DC) traveled to Washington Catholic Athletic Association leading DeMatha (MD) last night, the Eagles knew a challenge was afoot; not only did the visitors have to contain McDonald All-American Markelle Fultz, but also stymie All-American caliber D.J. Harvey and a host of other Stags. Add scoring on DeMatha's talented and deep bunch to Gonzaga's must-do list.
The Eagles, now 15-2 and 7-1 and third in the league found a way to do it all, prevailing 73-70 before a sellout crowd. DeMatha, though still first in the conference is now 16-3/8-1.
Reserve guard Nickey Miller was a key factor last night.
How did head coach Steve Turner's crew do it?
First, they 'limited' - and that's a relative term - the University of Washington-bound, senior guard, Fultz. Though he did score 21 points, 10 of those points came in the fourth quarter upon coming alive, worked fueled by DeMatha's spread-iso offensive attack featuring Fultz.
"Just try to contain, and not let him have straight line drives" shared Turner's plan to hinder the utltra-talented Fultz in isolation situations. "Continue to help and recover to the shooters".
Sophomore Gonzaga guard Prentiss Hubb, Jr. made two key defensive plays against Fultz within the last 15 seconds, manned up against him: First he stripped Fultz, soon afterward was fouled, making both charity stripes. Seconds later Hubb anticipated a Fultz spin, forcing a turnover in the process and securing Gonzaga's 71-67 lead with 3.4 seconds to go.
"It was just determination for our team to get a win" noted Hubb of he and his team's late defensive plays. "I told Coach to put me on Markel because I knew I could get the job done".
DeMatha's junior swingman Harvey scored 10 points, yet was denied what could of have been his two biggest with 15.9 seconds on the clock when junior guard Nickey Miller blocked his shot, an attempt that could have given DeMatha a one point lead.
Turner was proud of Miller's overall impact, noting "We talk about it every day in practice, we talk about it in our pregames - One man down, the next man has to step up. We had some guys that weren't having their typical games tonight. Nicky got his chance tonight, made the most of it and helped us to a big win tonight".
"Well, when I got in there, my main goal was to shut down my guy" recalled Miller of his overall approach, who also scored 12 much needed points. "Don't let my guy score. And then when I started doing that the offense started flowing".
Touching upon that rejection of Harvey, Miller smiled before admitting the ball "kind of shot out to D.J., and I saw him. I glanced at the clock real fast and was like 'Oh man, he's got to put a shot up'. I just went up, and luckily I got all ball...I didn't believe it when it happened".
That these defensive gems helped seal the game in many ways rests on the diminutive yet wide shoulders of Chris Lykes; having finished with 30 points, work produced by a quintet of two pointers, three trey-balls and 11 of 14 free throws, the Eagles were in a position to win.
It was the junior guard's time to shine when closing the contest, including caning a tough, 22 foot three pointer with just over 30 seconds in regulation. That shot regained Gonzaga the lead at 68-67, answering Fultz's previous and one layup, one reminiscent of NBA continuation action.
Lykes indicated "I had the confidence to take the shot. Fortunately it went in for me". Interestingly enough he laughingly admitted "I wanted to take the shot, but I didn't know I would take it. I was open".
Junior guard Ryan Allen impressed on-lookers throughout the game, scoring 19 points for DeMatha and head coach Mike Jones, who next are slated to take on Good Counsel on the road for a Friday evening, 730p, WCAC tilt.
Gonzaga welcomes WCAC foe Carroll. That contest is also a Friday evening matchup set for 730p.
Immediately after last night's win, Turner had pretty much turned the page towards the team's end-game, saying "There can be only one big win. If we don't get to the championship, it doesn't matter. This is an opportunity for us right now, every time we go out, to get better as a team, and try and have an opportunity to defend what we won last year".
Nickey Miller - 6'1", 185 pound junior guard, Gonzaga (DC) - A rugged and active defender, Miller is capable of hitting open shots, rebounding and making passes. He's committed to making winning plays.
Schools are not yet recruiting Miller, who last summer chose to forgo travel team ball. He's open to hitting the circuit this season, beginning in April.
Miller must burnish his ball handling - straight line half
court and in the open floor- which will help him on college. Is currently
tracking like a good Division III pick up.
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