WASHINGTON – Our Lady of Good Counsel High School was one of 13 local teams chosen to participate in the inaugural Washington Wizards High School Showcase at Trinity University on Dec. 14. The purpose of the event was to celebrate some of the best teams in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia by providing new competition and new matchups.
The Falcons faced Archbishop Spalding High School from Severn in the second to last game of the daylong event. Both teams are in different conferences and do not get to play against each other very often. However, Head Coaches GJ Kissal and Josh Pratt got their start as Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) junior varsity coaches.
Players from both teams registered double-digit performances in a game that featured highlight-reel dunks, a seesaw first half and second half foul trouble. The Falcons leaned on junior guards Bez Mbeng (14 points), Antoine Jacks (13 points) and Day’sJuan Waters (13 points) to pull away from the Cavaliers in the second half and emerge with the 65-53 tournament victory.
Even though Good Counsel had played 11 games in 22 days, fatigue did not seem to be a factor as the Falcons mounted a double-digit second-half lead against the Cavaliers. Spalding’s deep bench meant that Pratt could rotate his players to give everyone a chance to contribute.
Mbeng finished with a pair of fouls in each half, but penalties did not stop the junior from performing for his team. Mbeng darted through the lane with abandon and unleashed a spin maneuver for an easy layup. Later, Jacks stole the ball away from a Spalding player and bounce passed the ball to a waiting Mbeng, who promptly leaped into the air and came down with a one-handed dunk.
“I didn’t play too good, I was in foul trouble, but I think in the second half I played pretty well,” said Mbeng. “We played bad in the first half. We came out slow, and we thought it was going to be given to us. We thought we were better than them, but we have to play hard every game.”
A Good Counsel turnover in the second quarter led to a dunk by Spalding sophomore forward Cam Whitmore. Forward C.J. Scott led the Cavaliers with 13 points, including the go-ahead 3-point basket. Spalding maintained its lead until Waters hit a 3-pointer of his own as time expired to knot the score right before the half.
The Falcons opened the third quarter with an offensive surge as the Cavaliers tried to catch up. Mbeng and senior guard Montel Cooper led the charge, and Cooper’s five points in the opening seconds of the third quarter helped to build a Falcons lead that Spalding couldn’t overcome.
Spalding guard Ty Peterson saw limited minutes for most of the game, but he made the most of his time in the fourth quarter and contributed eight points. Both Peterson and Scott found themselves at the free-throw line late in the quarter as Spalding started to creep up on Good Counsel’s lead again.
However, Jacks added six points at the line to help the Falcons hold on to the win.
“I think it’s a great experience for our kids to play a WCAC team,” said Pratt. “Our kids didn’t quit, they fought until the end, and I’m very proud of them. We can be one of the better teams in the area, quite honestly. We have to get better in transition. There’s a couple of little things.”
Kissal commended his team for coming away with the victory despite their packed schedule.
“We got beaten off the dribble a little bit more than we wanted to, but our maturity over the years, especially these guys that are juniors, they know how to lock in and get what they want when the game is on the line,” said Kissal. “The ability to play on a back-to-back night is always beneficial because in tournament play, you’ve got to be ready with no practice.”
Good Counsel’s schedule does not ease up any time soon, as the Falcons will play against St. John’s College High School on Dec. 16 before heading to a three-game tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Dec. 18.