The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoff bracket is out and -- surprise, surprise -- traditional powerhouses DeMatha and Gonzaga appear headed for another collision course. DeMatha (22-7, 14-4 WCAC) earned the top seed by virtue of a win on Monday over St. John's and could meet No. 2 Gonzaga (22-6, 14-4) in next Monday's championship at American University.
"It's been a tough season," DeMatha coach Mike Jones said Tuesday by phone. "There's a lot of parity in the league. These playoffs will probably be the most dramatic that our league has seen in years.
"Where we are right now, getting the No. 1 seed was a goal we set for ourselves so being able to accomplish that was good."
DeMatha has won five of the last six WCAC titles, including last year's 71-52 victory over Gonzaga in which current Duke signee Quinn Cook matched his career-high with 30 points.
The teams split two meetings this year, with Gonzaga winning at home, 62-52, and DeMatha holding serve Sunday in Hyattsville, Md., 57-52.
"I think we started off with a young team that a lot of people thought would be in the middle of the pack," said Gonzaga coach Steve Turner, whose team features talented sophomores Nate Britt, Kris Jenkins, D.J. Fenner and Charles Glover. "But we've matured in a good progression and have gotten better as a team. I like where we are as a team even with the loss [Sunday]."
The play-in games begin Wednesday with the quarterfinals on Friday. If form holds, DeMatha would face No. 4 O'Connell and Gonzaga would meet No. 3 Bishop McNamara in Sunday's semifinals at American.
"We've just got to take it one game at a time," Nate Britt said Tuesday by phone. "That's what coach [Turner] has been telling us. The WCAC is a tough conference and anything can happen. Each game we play we've got to be prepared and ready for that game."
If both DeMatha and Gonzaga win their first two playoff games, they would meet for the third time this season.
"Everything we do here in the D.C. area comes down to DeMatha and Gonzaga," Jones said. "No matter who's having a good year, who's having a bad year, if both teams are having good years, these games are on another level.
"We pretty much sell out wherever we play. For years we've had to move games to college arenas to accommodate the crowd. They are some of the best high schools games you'll ever see."