WASHINGTON, DC -- The final game of the opening day of Gonzaga College High School's 14th annual DC Classic was the most competitive contest of Thurday's four-game schedule. But after Christ the King (Queens, NY) raced out to a 22-12 first quarter lead over The Potomac School from McLean, VA, one would have been hard pressed to predict such a close match.
Two players, Potomac's senior 6-0 guard Ross Condon and Christ the King's 5-10 senior guard Japhet McNeil, individually kept their squads in the game but it was McNeil who grabbed the ring at the end as the Royals climbed back for a 62-61 win and a berth in Friday's semifinals.
Condon hit five three-point shots in the second half sparking Potomac to a lead as large as five-points with just under three minutes left to play. McNeil, however, made CK's final six points, including a determined basket in the closing minute that made his team the victor. With the score at Potomac 61, CK 60, McNeil took the ball at the top of the key and drove to the basket through a tough defense then rebounded and scored on his own missed shot for the 62-61 win.
Since this was the fourth game, the smallest crowd of the night was in the stands at Gonzaga's Carmody Center for this remarkable drama. Those who stayed saw an amazing game where a less athletic local team fought the David vs. Goliath battle and almost pulled out a great upset.
Potomac has one renowned player, 6-10 junior center Peter Prowitt. The complimentary members of the Panthers' team showed they were just that -- there to make a difference when it mattered. But in the end, the New York City squad survived the threat just enough for the one-point win.
CK liberally substituted in the second stanza because of foul trouble. That didn't seem to make much of a difference as the Royals broke out to a 30-18 lead midway through the period. But before anyone could declare Potomac out, the Panthers responded with a 13-3 run to narrow the lead to 33-30 at the half.
After that scare, CK came out strong for the second half but it was Potomac who made the first bucket, a set-shot three by Condon, that gave the Royals a 34-33 lead, their first since 3-2 in the opening minutes. CK's senior guard Mitch Beauford made one of two free throws to knot the score at 34 which the Royals followed with an 8-0 run and a 42-33 lead. But again Potomac would not fall away, as Condon canned two more downtown shots, helping slice the lead to one at 47-46 as the quarter ended.
The fourth quarter started with a Prowitt block but two free throws by the Royals' 6-4 senior Brian Williams extended the lead to 49-46. Condon came back with two more threes, the first an "in-again-out-again-in-again Finnegan," that put the Panthers back in charge at 52-51. Reserve senior guard Patrick Baxter picked up on Condon's magic and dropped in another three, extending the spread to 55-51 with 4:11 left in the game. Junior Brian Beckford's basket on the break narrowed the spread to 55-54. Again "David" responded as Prowitt broke free of CK's defense for two layups and a 59-54 lead, Potomac's largest of the game with just 2:48 remaining.
Then McNeil found the Big Apple magic, first with a steal and layup, which narrowed the lead to 59-58. Senior Brian Fairbank won a loose ball scramble on the other end to push the lead up to 61-58. McNeil came back and canned two free throws in a "mixing bowl" at the top of the key to bring the edge down to 61-60.
McNeil completed his personal run of six points, putting back his own miss for the 62-61 win with just 0:04.7 on the clock. A steal by CK's senior guard Devin Diggs sealed the win.
McNeil led the Royals with 19 points followed by senior Brian Williams' 18. Both were perfect from the charity stripe, canning all five attempts. Mitchell Beauford added 11.
Prowitt's 20 points (8-10 FTs) paced Potomac, aided by Condon's 18 points, including five threes, and Fairbank's 13 points.
Christ the King will face the winner of Thursday's night's preceding game, Paul VI from Fairfax, VA, at 8:30 pm at American University's Bender Arena. Potomac will matchup with Heritage Christian from Cleveland, Texas, in a consolation game at 5:00 pm.
Note: Williams was injured on the fourth quarter play that resulted in Japhet's two free throws and was writhing in pain with a scary knee injury. Fortunately the senior was able to walk off the court unaided after some work by Gonzaga's trainer.