Battle of The Beltway

Washington, D.C – A controversial buzzer-beater, a match-up between future Big East superstars and a national TV audience watching on ESPNU – the Battle of the Beltways had everything Washington/Baltimore-area hoops junkies could ask for, and they showed up en masse Saturday night at American University to watch the festivities.

The highlight of the night – or lowlight, if you were there to cheer on St. John's (D.C.) was a desperation 3-pointer by Mount St. Joseph (Md.) forward Dino Gregory that sent the opener into overtime and lifted the Gaels to a controversial 69-65 win. Gregory, a University of Maryland signee, clearly had a foot inside the arc when he let the shot go, and replays also revealed the buzzer had sounded before he let the ball go.

Nonetheless, the officials missed the call, and with St. John's (16-5) shell-shocked, 6-foot-10 MSJ junior Henry Sims asserted himself with an overtime-opening dunk. The Gaels (18-4), one of the area's most consistently successful programs, never looked back.

"I think it was a 3-pointer. Definitely," Gregory said.

"Man, the boy's foot was 12 feet behind the line at this point," MSJ coach Pat Clatchey joked minutes afterward.

St. John's was led by 40 points from prolific guard Chris Wright (Georgetown). The Cadets argued vociferously for the officials to check the video replay, but high school rules do not allow for such reviews. Credit St. John's coach Paul DeStefano for taking the blatant and decisive mistake better than most coaches would have.

In the nightcap, DeMatha was too quick and two deep for Towson Catholic. The Stags never trailed, and Georgetown-bound shooting guard Austin Freeman (30 points) got the better of Towson Catholic All-American Donte Green (Syracuse) in a 78-71 win.

Stags coach Mike Jones had his troops ready to roll after a one-point upset loss to rival Gonzaga last week. Jones and DeMatha have taken on a ridiculously difficult national schedule this year, and should be commended for doing so rather than racking up wins against regular competition.

Austin Freeman, DeMatha – The 6-foot-5 future Hoya is simply unstoppable, the kind of scorer who always gets his points but still manages to pick his spots rather than forcing. Back off of him and he'll drop a 3-pointer in your eye. Play up on him and he'll go back door for an alley-oop. He might not look like a top-notch athlete, but he can get up there, as he tried to by rising up attempting to dunk on the 6-10 Green.

Dino Gregory, Mount St. Joseph's - Gregory, at 6-7, is a classic tweener. He has the game of a true power forward, but could use another inch or two in order to reach his full potential in the ACC. But he's strong and smart, showing off a pretty jump hook and excellent ability to find open shooters when double-teamed in the post. And he wasn't making any apologies for his questionable buzzer-beater. Who would?

Chris Wright, St. John's – Wright's 40-point night marked his eighth consecutive game of 30 points or more. Like Freeman, he can rise up and shoot the 3 over you and get to the hoop at will. But he also took 32 shots.

Donte Greene, Towson Catholic – Greene ended up with 23 points but did not have his usual effect on the game, as DeMatha threw a slew of physical defenders at the magnificently gifted 6-10 forward. DeMatha's Kenny Tate, a top-five football recruit in the Class of 2008, did a good job of bodying Greene, who did manage a couple of highlight-reel dunks that awed the crowd.

Malcolm Delaney, Towson Catholic – When Delaney is on, he's a very tough cover. He nearly matched Freeman in points (27) and overall performance, hitting one tough shot after another. Though he appears closer to 6-2 than the 6-4 he's listed at, Delaney is going to rack up quite a few points in his career at Virginia Tech.

Vlad Moldoveanu, St. John's – The 6-10 bomber started off red-hot but didn't see the ball much, as Wright went one-on-one quite often. The George Mason commit had a solid night (17 points) as his future coach, Jim Larranag watched from the sideline, but uncharacteristically struggled from the free-throw line. It's easy to see why WVU wanted him badly – he's Kevin Pittsnogle version 2.0.

Jeff Peterson, DeMatha - Peterson is a classic point guard. He sees the court, runs the offense to perfection and is always on the attack. He recently decommited from Princeton.

Henry Sims, Mount. St. Joseph's - The No. 29 junior in the country is progressing at a fast rate. He's always had great ball skills and shooting touch for a player of his size, but he's developing some nice back-to-the-basket moves. He scored 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, along with 12 rebounds.

Chris Braswell, DeMatha - Braswell, a Georgetown verbal rated No. 17 in the junior class, was not in uniform or on the bench.

Eric Atkins, Mount St. Joseph's - A backcourt starter for MSJ, Atkins has excellent maturity for his age and will be a highly recruited player in a few years.

DeMatha's Jones wasn't commenting on Braswell, who missed time earlier this year because of academic issues. There's no official word on the reason for his absence, or when he might return … Tate wasn't the only two-sport standout on the court. St. John's got a couple of nice plays from junior guard L.J. Hoes, who is regarded as a blue-chip Major League baseball prospect …

Maryland's Gary Williams, Georgetown's John Thompson III, George Mason's Jim Larranaga and UVA assistant Bill Courtney were a few of the college coaches in the house.

Sims might be the top junior target for Maryland, which needs frontcourt scoring help. UVA, Georgetown, Boston College and George Mason are also in hot pursuit, while Florida and UConn have been in contact. Peterson could still end up at Princeton, but he's heard from a couple dozen schools, including a handful from the A-10. The longer he waits, the more big-name name schools will come after the ready-made playmaker.

He's a great player. He's one of the best players in America, if not the best." – DeMatha coach Mike Jones on Austin Freeman.

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