HYATTSVILLE — When Anthony Cowan meanders around the halls of St. John’s College High School, you would think he’s the popular name buzzing through the air. He certainly is one of the well-known faces at St. John’s, with prestigious honors like being a top-100-rated player by ESPN and committed to play college ball at the University of Maryland. But something still bugs Cowan.
So, when he was engulfed with questions about DeMatha’s Markelle Fultz, that’s when it all came out.
“He’s a great player, but when people bring him up, it amps me,” Cowan said. “That’s all the kids at school talk about. And even my coaches, too.”
Though all of the outside hoopla doesn’t sit well with the 5-foot-11 lead guard, maybe it’s a good thing, as he claims it keeps his focus level sharp. Cowan carried that into Tuesday night’s game at DeMatha in a clash between two top-10 teams in the nation, and behind a 19-point performance, drove St. John’s (24-2) to a 61-54 win on the road.
The University of Washington commit, Fultz, who is a McDonald’s All-American and set to play in the Jordan Brand Classic game, is widely considered as the top recruit to come out of the DMV in the Class of 2016. And while it’s far-fetched, he projects as a top-10 selection in the 2017 NBA draft by nbadraft.net.
“I hear about all these things,” Cowan continued. “Markelle has done this and that, and it grinds my gears in a motivating way.”
Cowan hit a pair of 3-pointers out of the gate to push the Cadet lead to 8-3 midway through the first quarter. On the ensuing possession, DeMatha’s D.J. Harvey drilled a spinning jumper to bring the Stags within three, 8-5.
That’s as close as it would get, as the Cadets rattled off a 15-2 run behind Rhode Island commit, Jeff Dowtin (24 points), and Cowan from the three-minute mark of the first quarter until the 3:57 mark of the second to swell the lead to 23-7.
“We talked about wanting to be able to jump on them early,” St. John’s head coach Sean McAloon said. “And we certainly did that.”
A 10-2 DeMatha run fueled by Fultz and Nate Darling whittled the St. John’s 19-point halftime lead down to 34-23 midway through the third period. When it appeared momentum swung the Stags’ way, Dowtin buried three-straight treys off frozen-rope passes from Cowan..
“That series of events for us was huge,” Cowan said. “(Jeff Dowtin) was always there when I looked for him out on the perimeter.”
The Cadets ballooned their lead to 15 with under two minutes remaining, but Fultz and Harvey strung together a 9-0 DeMatha run that brought the game to 53-49 with 45 seconds to go. However, eight free throws from DeJaun Clayton, Cowan and Dowtin preserved the victory.
As for DeMatha (21-4), a momentous second half was not enough as their sizable deficit in the early going proved to be too tall to overcome.
“It was lack of focus tonight,” Harvey, the 5-star recruit said. “For whatever reason, we just weren’t mentally checked in. Just because we beat them already, doesn’t mean we’ll be guaranteed a victory the second time around. We’ll get back on track.”
Fultz finished with a pedestrian 11 points for DeMatha. Harvey, who is being heavily recruited by Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Villanova and among others, paced the Stags with 12 points.
St. John’s: 13, 19, 11, 18 – 61
DeMatha: 5, 8, 22, 19 – 54
St. John’s: Jeff Dowtin 24, Anthony Cowan 19, Dejuan Clayton 12, Emmanuel Hylton 4, Kylia Sykes 2
DeMatha: Nate Darling 14, D.J. Harvey 12, Markelle Fultz 11, Reggie Gardner 6, Ryan Allen 5, Kellon Taylor 4, Justin Moore 2
3-point field goals
St. John’s (8): Dowtin 4, Cowan 2, Clayton 2
DeMatha (8): Darling 3, Harvey 2, Allen 1, Fultz 1, Gardner 1