O’Connell tops Indians by 16

DALE CITY On the 45-minute bus ride down Interstate 95 from Alexandria, most of the O’Connell basketball players decided to nap while fighting the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Problem is they woke up.

O’Connell, who defeated area elite St. John’s last Tuesday, beat Gar-Field last night, 71-55, but not with out a fight from the depleted Indians.

“We didn’t come to lose,” Gray said. “We were a little shorthanded, but in spite of that we still had opportunities to stay in this game and we probably ran a little out of steam. I mean if we make a few more plays like a simple box outs… Who knows what could have happened if a few more of those go are way.”

Without forward Greg Tekampe, who missed the game after being elbowed in practice on Tuesday, and forward Kirsten McCane, who was attending his sister’s college graduation, the Indians overcame a 15-point deficit in the second half before losing by 16.

“They are a well-coached ball club and they wouldn’t quit. Give a lot of credit to their kids,” said O’Connell coach Joe Wooten, who is the son of legendary DeMatha head coach Morgan Wooten.

Gar-Field kept the game close in the second half after falling behind by 15 points with 2:36 left in the second quarter. The Indians scored 13 unanswered points to end the first half and then continued the first two minutes of the third quarter.

Gar-Field tied the game at 51 with 5:33 left in the fourth quarter after a basket by Demetrius Howard, but the Indians though were never able to take the lead from O’Connell and only scored four points over the game’s final five minutes.

“We just needed to step up and stop them on D and once we tied the game up we thought we had it,” Gar-Field guard Chris Vann said. “We made mental errors, just throwing the ball away, not boxing out and making bad passes.”

O’Connell pulled away behind 6-9 center Brian Johnson, who scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the game. Johnson plagued the Indians on the offensive boards, putting in two missed free throws in the final two minutes to seal the victory for the Knights.

“I told the kids that I realized Johnson was a handful,” Gray said. “He is physically and athletically superior to any kid we got, but if we had executed things we worked on to deny him those stick backs, then he doesn’t become a factor.”

Gar-Field guard Ryan Smith was ejected with 42 seconds remaining in the game after arguing with O’Connell guard Ahmad Smith. Ryan Smith tossed the ball at Ahmad Smith after a foul and was given a technical foul and then nudged the O’Connell guard on his way to the free throw line.

Howard, who scored 16 points for the Indians, transferred from Paul VI before this season and played against O’Connell last year in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

“[I told everyone] to basically have no fear,” Howard said. “I played them last year and I felt that they are a good team, but any given night they could be beat. If we went out and played hard I had no doubt that we could win.”

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