By John Ourand
As Gonzaga’s point guard Chris Lykes dribbled out the final seconds of Monday’s championship game, the students waiting to rush the court were reminded of how much he means to the school. After starting since his freshman year, this was the second championship the team has won in three years. To cap off his 20-point performance, he was trending on Twitter in the Washington, D.C. area after the game.
The Gonzaga Eagles defeated the Paul VI Panthers 68-55 in the WCAC championship at American University.
In the first quarter, Gonzaga got off to an early lead. It started with a basket from Myles Dread and 3-pointer from Prentiss Hubb to give the Eagles a quick 5-1 lead. Paul VI fought back, and a Josiah Freeman 3-pointer brought the Panthers within one point of Gonzaga. But after Freeman’s basket, Gonzaga went on a 11-0 run to give the Eagles a 20-8 lead. This run included a pair of 3-pointers from Myles Dread, a 3-pointer from Josh Watts and a basket from Chris Lykes. Gonzaga carried the momentum and led 20-11 after the first quarter.
The Eagles started the second quarter with a Chris Lykes 3-pointer and three made free throws between Lykes and Eddie Scott. Paul VI responded with a 3-point play from Aaron Thompson, but shortly after Myles Dread hit his third 3-pointer of the night, Paul VI was forced to call a timeout. Paul VI came out of the break with a 3-pointer from Anthony Harris, and a few more added buckets cut Gonzaga’s lead to 33-23 at halftime.
At the start of the third quarter, Paul VI committed three fouls in the span of thirty seconds. That, along with a Prentiss Hubb 3-pointer, forced Paul VI to call an early timeout. Gonzaga started to grow their lead this quarter, and Paul VI struggled to keep the Eagles quiet. A Michael Myers 3-pointer followed by a Prentiss Hubb basket forced Paul VI to call their second time out of the quarter. It was able to get a few shots to fall, but it couldn’t stop Gonzaga’s offense. At the end of the third quarter the Eagles led 49-34.
In the fourth quarter, Gonzaga slowed its game down to finish off the clock. Paul VI did bring its best efforts, though. Multiple sequences in which Paul VI utilized a full-court press forced Gonzaga to call a pair of timeouts in the quarter. Unfortunately for Paul VI, whenever it seemed to get their offense hot, it would just give the points back on defense. Gonzaga went on to win 68-55.
Similar to the St. John’s semifinal game, Gonzaga’s defense played a major role in tonight’s victory. The Eagle’s man-to-man defense held the Panthers to just 23 points in the first half, and 11 points in the third quarter. When they weren’t drawing charges or blocking shots, the Eagles forced Paul VI to settle for poor shots. This strong performance of defense played a key role in each of Gonzaga’s playoffs wins.
The Eagles were tonight’s home team and even though the game was played at American University, the fans made it feel like they were back at Gonzaga. Gonzaga students took up three rows of bleachers, and motivated their team through the whole game. In the first half, when Paul VI shot its free throws in front of Gonzaga’s student section, they shot 4-of-6. In the second half when the student section wasn’t in their face, they shot an almost perfect 10-11. Gonzaga fans have played a big role through this season, and especially in these playoffs.