|MJ makes big play, decides UC nailbiter |
Big-time players make big-time plays that win big-time games.
Union City’s Nik Brooks ducks inside for a shot during the Twisters’ 58-57 triumph against Lake County Friday night.
MJ Brown and his late-game heroics fit that old adage to a T.
Brown, the reigning Class A Mr. Basketball, drained a 24-footer with six seconds left to keep Union City unbeaten and cap a thrilling 58-57 victory over Lake County in a District 14A showdown Friday night at Tiptonville.
Brown’s deed represented the last of his game-high 22 points and not only saved the Tornadoes from their first loss in 17 games this season but also extended the locals’ district winning streak to 31 straight over a span of three years.
LC, expected along with Humboldt to challenge Union City for 14A and state-wide supremacy this season, fell to 15-3 overall and 7-2 in league play.
Humboldt is UC’s next challenge on Tuesday night.
With Union City down 57-55 and inbounding the ball under its own basket with 11 seconds left, Brown came off a perfectly-set screen by Pat Polk and buried his deciding 3-pointer from the right wing and in front of the Twister bench.
Lake County advanced the ball into frontcourt following Brown’s shot, but could do no better than Channin Geanes’ desperation heave from 40 feet that wasn’t close.
“I think everybody knew who was going to get the ball, but that was one of the few times tonight we executed perfectly and MJ stepped up and made a tough shot with a hand in his face,” Union City head coach Shane Sisco said afterward.
“He’s a big-time player and those are the kinds of players you want in those situations when everything is on the line.”
The Tornadoes were pushed to the limit by a Lake County team that never allowed UC to create its trademark chaotic breakneck pace, thus negating the locals’ superior depth advantage on the bench.
And Union City failed to put together one of its patented defensive-fueled flurries, and the Falcons used their 1-2-2 zone to dictate a tempo to their liking in Tiptonville.
“I said before the game if we didn’t make it a 94-foot game or get them into foul trouble, it’d be a long night for us,” Sisco continued. “I truly believe Lake County’s starting five is the best in the district, and we never could get them into an up-and-down game that suits us better because of our depth.
“That said, I thought our kids never panicked. We’ve had a two-week stretch of games where we’ve been in some situations like this and we feel comfortable that someone is always going to make a play when we need it. We don’t need to get complacent, though, and think we can just turn it on and turn it off.”
A missed front-end of a bonus free throw chance by Geanes with 17 seconds left and Lake County up 57-55 set up Brown’s dramatic feat that ended the affair.
The Twisters went nearly 41/2 minutes without a point after scoring seven straight to open the fourth and take a 53-48 lead after trailing by two entering the period.
Andre Coby made both a deuce and a trey and Brown sank twin foul shots to build UC’s lead to five, but Lake County then answered with seven unanswered points of its own, taking a 55-53 advantage on two Geanes’ charities at the 1:43 mark.
Brown’s floater then evened the count at 55 before Geanes then put the host team back in front by two with 69 seconds showing on a drive to the hoop.
“I’m not sure either team really played that well, but we both played hard,” Sisco added, in his final assessment.
Union City scored the game’s first seven points and got 10 in the first period from Coby to lead all but a few seconds in the stanza.
LC surged near the end of the half, though, assuming a 34-30 edge late on the strength of the 3-point shooting of Tremaine Abbott, who sank three triples and had a game-high 13 markers at the intermission.
Coby joined Brown in double figures for the victors with 19 points, while Abbott had 20 and Geanes contributed 19 for Lake County.
Lake Co. 60, UC 50 (G)
The Lady Tornadoes gave LC a scare with a gritty effort, but saw a fourth-quarter scoring drought contribute greatly to their eighth loss in nine district games and drop them to 5-11 overall.
Down just 50-44 heading into the fourth quarter and after having rallied to twice tie the game in the third canto after trailing at one time by 14 in the first half, UC went more than four minutes down the stretch without a point.
The squandered comeback chance was best illustrated in that the Tornado girls made just three field goals total over the last eight minutes.
“I’m still excited that our girls put together solid back-to-back games,” Union City skipper Jeff Chandler said. “We took Lake County’s best tonight, and we didn’t roll over when they got us down big in the first half.
“There were a couple of block/charge calls that went against us in the fourth quarter that I thought were very critical, and we didn’t turn them over in the fourth quarter like we had earlier. Still, I liked our effort a lot.”
UC got off to a good start with 3-pointers by Allison McCullough and Doreal Strayhorn on its way to an 8-0 lead, but found itself in a 36-22 hole late in the first half after the Lady Falcons ran off 11 consecutive points.
The Twister girls started off the second half strong, getting 3-pointers by Whitney Smith, Mary Steward and Paige Fisher and then a 2-pointer by Shenisha Huff to pull even at 43-all with three minutes left in the quarter.
McCullough and Smith scored nine apiece to lead a UC offense that made 11 3-pointers in all.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.