FAIRFAX, Va., -- On Jan. 19, fans packed the O'Connell Field House expecting to see an exciting matchup of two local basketball powers on Martin Luther King Day. And they were not disappointed.
Early in the contest, it appeared Gonzaga (Washington, D.C.) would have its way with the Knights, leading somewhat comfortably, 35-27, at halftime. Chris Lykes, the diminutive 5-foot-6 Gonzaga point guard, who led his team with 19 points, seemed to have his way slicing through the O'Connell (Arlington, Va.) defense seemingly at will with his dynamic ball skills, superior quickness and ability to create several fast-break points in transition. Most of Lykes’ scoring came in the first half as they had O'Connell on their heels for most of the first two quarters.
However, the halftime break seemed to give the O'Connell coaches time to calm their players, regroup and design a strategy to slow Lykes, who visited Maryland Jan. 17 for the Michigan State game. By switching up defenses and placing a larger man on him, it limited his penetration and forced him to dribble into the lane, where the help defense arrived.
Also, O'Connell realized to win the game, they would have to react quicker to turnovers and hustle back on defense as a unit. This forced Gonzaga out of their game a bit, and as a result settled for lower percentage and contested shots. Thus keeping the score down and giving the Knights a needed spark.
On the O'Connell side of the ball, a young star emerged. Ako Adams, a 2016, 6-foot-2 lefty combo guard, well regarded in the DMV area, led the Knights with 30 points. He decided midway through the first half if his team was to win, he would have to place them on his back. Gonzaga's quickness and experience were too much to overcome without a superlative effort from Adams.
O'Connell remained competitive early largely due to Adams hustle on both sides of the ball. He appeared to be playing several positions to keep the Knights in the game until the half, seemingly running sideline to sideline on every possession.
In the second half, Adams, who projects as a mid-major for now, upped his game to a different level. Coach Joe Wootten decided to move Adams around the floor without the ball, utilizing picks, backdoor cuts and his tremendous quickness. Wootten decided to have point guard Jamaal King become more involved bringing the ball up the court and forcing a faster tempo on the visitors. King showed great speed, which created mismatches and open shooters throughout the second half.
At this time, Adams decided to put it all together taking over the contest singlehandedly. His repertoire included beautiful drives to the hoop squeezing between defenders, as well as long range three pointers when Gonzaga defense had sagged into the lane.
Slowly but surely, the Knights erased a large deficit late in the game, eventually tying the contest at 57-57 with less than a minute to play. Following a Gonzaga miss with 10 seconds on the clock, Adams raced up the court and buried a runner with only a second remaining. Needless to say, the arena erupted.
Helping the Knights to victory was Randall Gaskins and Jamaal King, who were both an integral part of their second half surge, scoring 10 points apiece.
On the losing side, Lykes finished a stellar performance with 19 points, while teammates Bryant Crawford scored 15 points and Sam Miller provided 11, respectively. Eddie Scott, a national 2016 recruit who is the most likely Terps target, struggled throughout the game, finishing with 4 points.
And for the final numbers, we had:
Ako Adams – 30 points, 4 treys, 2 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists.
Chris Lykes – 19 points, 3 treys, 3 rebounds, 2 steals 4 assists
Randall Gaskins – 10 points, 3 rebounds, and a very good defender. Runs the floor beautifully. Great in transition. But somewhat quiet in this game.
Jamaal King – 10 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists - all in second half. Spark-plug off the bench. Great quickness and tight defense. Adams was much more effective when he didn't have to carry ball up the court.
Eddie Scott – 4 points, 2 rebounds. Very quiet. He did not touch ball as much as he should.
The game turned out to be a shootout between Adams and Lykes, with Adams winning this battle. The change in O'Connell's defense on Lykes was the difference in the game. Held Gonzaga to 22 second-half points.
Lykes’ height may hinder him at the high D-I level from dominating games. He got stuck a few times in the lane and under the basket when he pulled up his dribble. At 5-foot-6, he is very quick. But not Mugsy Bogues or Spud Webb quick. Actually I thought Jamaal King was quicker bringing the ball up the court. He created more havoc.
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