In the regular season Gonzaga was 1-1 when it played St. John’s. That loss was one of Gonzaga’s five losses all season, so when St. John’s led 3-2 after the first few possessions, it looked as if the two teams would play in another competitive game. But little did St. John’s know, this would be the last time it led in the game.
Gonzaga dominated the rest of the game, and came out with a 66-33 victory in front of a large crowd at American University.
After the Cadets brief lead, this game wasn’t even close. In the first quarter Gonzaga went on a 10-0 run, and held St. John’s to just five points. At the end of the quarter Gonzaga led 22-5.
In the second quarter, St. John’s finally reached double digit points with 4:21 left in the quarter. But after that 4:21 mark St. John’s didn’t score a single point in the half, and a 13-0 Gonzaga run gave the Eagles a 43-10 lead at the half.
The second half looked the same, although the St. John’s offense was slightly more successful. In the third quarter Gonzaga was able to rest some of its starters, and St. John’s more than doubled its halftime point total.
Going into the fourth quarter Gonzaga led 56-24. At this point Gonzaga’s lead was too high for a comeback and many St. John’s students started to leave. In the fourth quarter, Gonzaga got the opportunity to give some of its younger players playoff experience, and close out the game. Gonzaga finished the night with a large margin of victory, defeating the Cadets 66-33.
Gonzaga’s head coach Steve Turner cited that defense was the biggest difference in the two regular season games between these two teams, and the postseason blowout. The Eagles played a man-to-man defense tonight that worked out for them. Eddie Scott had a pair of steals, Myles Dread drew two charges and the team forced St. John’s to settle for bad shots. St. John’s only scored five points in each of the first two quarters, and 23 points in the second half. Being able to hold the third-ranked team in the WCAC to those totals was a huge advantage for Gonzaga.
“To hold a team like that, who [has] been probably the hottest team in our league in the last two weeks to 10 points in the first half, that’s pretty good,” Turner said. “When we defend I think we get a lot of energy off of how our defense plays.”
With a lead like Gonzaga’s lead tonight, it got the opportunity to get younger players some minutes in a high-energy semifinal playoff game. The Eagles were able to substitute in freshmen Myles Sute and Chuck Harris, as well as juniors Will Turgeon and Allin Blunt. Gonzaga had four seniors graduating this year, three of whom are starters. It was important tonight to give younger players the experience in a big game, because they could be the team’s leaders in the future.
“I was proud that the guys who do get the most of the minutes did what they did early to get these guys an opportunity to play in this type of environment and this atmosphere,” Turner said. “Especially in as heated a rivalry as Gonzaga and St. John’s.”
In the game before Gonzaga’s win, Paul VI came back to defeat DeMatha to advance to the championship. That means Gonzaga will face Paul VI in the championship game tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. at American University.
In the regular season the team’s split two games, with both home teams winning. They had the same regular season records, and the tournament ranking was decided by a coin flip. Tomorrow is sure to be a good one, with the two best teams in the WCAC facing off in the championship.