University of the District of Columbia Men’s Basketball Guts Out 65-60 Victory to Complete Season Sweep of Dowling

Ziad Ashmawy stepped up big for the Firebirds down the stretch. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Ziad Ashmawy stepped up big for the Firebirds down the stretch. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

WASHINGTON, DC  –  The University of the District of Columbia men's basketball team earned its fifth straight victory as the Firebirds completed the season sweep of East Coast Conference foe Dowling with a 65-60 victory on Saturday afternoon at UDC Gym.

"Today was a good win," head coach Jeff Ruland said. "We didn't play our best today - and credit Dowling for that - but we made plays when we had to, and we pulled it out."

The Firebirds improve to 19-3 overall and 10-2 in league play while Dowling falls to 9-12 overall and 5-6 in the ECC. In other ECC action, C.W. Post defeated St. Thomas Aquinas, 73-63 to stay atop the league standings at 11-1.

Senior guard Nigel Munson (Washington, DC – DeMatha HS) led all scorers with 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the field (4-of-7 from three-point range) and also registered six rebounds and four assists. Junior forward Dyrek Jones (Brooklyn, NY – Bedford Academy HS) had another big performance in the paint as he came through with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds while also blocking five shots. Brandon Herbert (Baltimore, MD – McDonough HS) and Ziad Ashmawy (Cairo, Egypt – American City College) also scored 13 and 11 respectively, with Ashmawy also grabbing seven boards.

Munson knocked down two three-pointers on his first two shot attempts of the afternoon to put the Firebirds up 6-0 a little over a minute into the action, but Dowling answered with a 7-0 run to pull in front on a Justin Alexander (23 points, eight rebounds) layup at the 16:16 mark. The Lions led 9-8 at the 15-minute mark when Dishawn Bradshaw (Baltimore, MD – St. Frances Academy) buried an outside jumper to spark a 9-2 Firebirds run which gave the hosts a 17-11 advantage. But back came Dowling with six straight points to force the first of three first-half ties. UDC later used a 7-2 run to turn a 19-19 deadlock into a 26-21 lead after Munson completed a conventional three-point play at the 3:46 mark, but the Lions came roaring back to score eight of the final 11 points of the half to send the game into halftime tied up at 29-apiece.

The two ECC foes, who needed overtime to declare a winner the last time they met, would trade leads in the first few minutes of the second half, but UDC would distance itself a bit with a 9-3 run to extend its 38-37 lead into a more comfortable 47-40 advantage with 12:48 left to play. With the Firebirds still up 49-42 with under 11 minutes to go, Dowling went on a 9-0 charge over the next four minutes and took a 50-49 lead on a Leon Taylor (seven points, nine rebounds, three assists) layup with 6:35 to play.

The next trip down the floor for UDC, Jones earned a trip to the line and made a pair to put his team back up by one, 51-50, then rejected a Michael Hill shot attempt and grabbed the loose ball at the other end. Back up the floor came Munson, who floated a shot from the foul line up and in to push the Firebirds' lead to three at the 5:41 mark.

Dowling still would not go away though as Taylor hit a jumper and Alexander converted a layup on two consecutive possessions to give the Lions a 54-53 lead with 4:24 still to play. Four Firebird free-throws (two apiece by Herbert and Ashmawy) gave UDC a 57-54 lead just past the three-minute mark, but Hill's layup again cut the deficit to just one, 57-56 with 2:33 to go.

On the ensuing possession, the Firebirds went inside to Ashmawy, who used an excellent spin move in the paint and knocked down a clutch fade-away jumper with Dowling defenders draped all over him to once again extend UDC's lead to three points (59-56). On the ensuing Lions possession, Jones came up with another big-time shot rejection, then ran the floor where he was greeted with a beautiful feed from Munson for an easy layup to give UDC a five-point cushion. The Firebirds went on to win by that same margin, 65-60.

The Firebirds go on the road next to take on ECC foe Mercy College on Wednesday, February 15th at 7:30 p.m.