While day one of the 50th annual Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament (ACIT) was highlighted by a few convincing blowouts, day two offered some competitive down to the wire action. The two best teams from the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), DeMatha and Gonzaga, are representing quite well in Frostburg, Md. They’ll meet for the fourth time this season on March 20 at 8:15 p.m. in the ACIT Championship after winning their semi-final games on day two.
Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) 74 vs. Mount St. Joseph (Baltimore, Md) 67
The Gonzaga Eagles (27-6) held off a strong outing from the Baltimore Catholic League Player of the Year, Eric Atkins, and his 27 points by knocking down clutch free throws in the waning minutes. Atkins and Gonzaga’s Tyler Thornton got tangled up early in the third quarter which resulted in Thornton being sent to the bench after being called for his third foul. After Thornton returned early in the fourth quarter, the Duke-bound point guard was all business, scoring a team-high 20 points and punishing defenders in the low post.
Thornton’s leadership skills were on full display as he kept his composure despite foul trouble (4 fouls). Thornton had a pair of three-point plays late in the fourth quarter that allowed Gonzaga to restore the lead to double figures after the Gaels (31-5) cut a 10-point deficit to two in the middle of the fourth quarter.
With the win, the Eagles advanced to their third consecutive ACIT Championship game and will look to even their season series with DeMatha 2-2 after losing the last two meetings to their WCAC rival.
DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md) 66 vs. Benedictine High School (Richmond, VA) 54
The DeMatha Stags (32-3) are big, fast and athletic, so for the Benedictine Cadets (24-8) to hang through four quarters with them is a testament to how well-coached the Cadets are. DeMatha’s Victor Oladipo made a number of highlight reel plays and his 20 points paved the way for D.C.’s City champions to try to capture their third title in as many weeks.
DeMatha has already collected both the WCAC and City titles this season and appear to be focused on breaking Gonzaga’s two-year championship hold on the ACIT. Benedictine’s Mike Gbinije led the Cadets with 19 points but DeMatha’s Quinn Cook countered with his own 19-point outing with a few deep threes that took the air out of any Cadet run that the Richmond team tried to make.
The Duke-bound Gbinije continued to impress for the second consecutive day of the ACIT and the 6-foot-7 junior may be the most complete player in this tournament. Gbinije can shoot from deep, score off the dribble and is active on the defensive end. The same however, can be said about a number of players on DeMatha’s roster as the Stags are very deep and very talented.
Their championship clash with Gonzaga should be another classic.