By Dan McGrath
The question that accompanied De La Salle High School’s Meteors to Leo for Saturday’s Catholic League makeup game against the Lions: How is this team winless?
The Meteors boast a college-sized front line featuring 6-foot-9 Marcelius Cohen, 6-7 Jamil Wilson and 6-5 Caleb Jenkins. The trio’s imposing length was surely a factor in Leo’s nightmare shooting performance (37 percent for the game, 5-for-23 on three-pointers) and its glaring inability to get an offensive rebound.
But the biggest reason—figuratively if not literally—behind De La Salle’s breakthrough effort was guard DaJuan Bates. The 5-11 junior was like a kid in a candy store in Leo’s cozy gym, erupting for 40 points in a 66-51 victory and taking it upon himself to shoot the Lions down each time they threatened.
“We let him go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wanted,” was Leo Coach Jamal Thompson’s on-the-money assessment.
Bates had 19 of De La Salle’s 30 points in the first half as the Meteors built a double-figures lead that withstood sophomore Ja’keem Cole’s late seven-point flurry. He left the heavy lifting to backcourt mate Miles McGee in a three-point third quarter, as if he were conserving his energy to turn back Leo’s final push.
Sure enough, the Lions’ press forced some turnovers and Cameron Cleveland began finding the range with his shot, and it was a 53-47 game with just under four minutes remaining. But Bates simply took over, scoring 18 in the quarter and 10 in a 13-4 run with which De La Salle closed it out.
His 40 included six three-pointers and a 6-for-6 showing at the free-throw line in the final period.
Cleveland finished with 20 points for the second straight game and Cole had 15 for Leo. It was a commendable effort, but Bates’ shooting and all that size were too much to overcome as Leo’s overmatched front line managed just six points total.
The teams were scheduled to play this game on Monday, Feb. 15, but snow forced the five-day postponement. The sophomore game will be made up later. Leo’s Friday, Feb. 19 game against St. Joe’s also was postponed because the Chargers are in COVID quarantine.
The Lions (1-3) are back in action Monday, traveling to Marmion for a 6:30 game. The Cadets were in COVID quarantine earlier and have played just one game, losing to Mt. Carmel.