|Instant replay Twisters ride Brown to rally by LC again |
|Seemingly watching its unbeaten season slip away, Union City hit “rewind” rather than the “panic” button. |
Star guard MJ Brown — who beat Lake County with a last-second 3-pointer earlier this season —calmly drained three 3-pointers as part of a 17-2 fourth-quarter rally to lift the No. 1-ranked Tornadoes to a thrilling 63-60 triumph over fourth-ranked LC Wednesday night.
The heartstopping Twister comeback that had many of the same traits of UC’s earlier narrow triumph over Lake County, capped a perfect 27-0 regular season for the Purple and Gold. It marked just the second such occurrence of that feat in modern-day school history.
Union City’s game vs. Jackson Central-Merry tonight has been canceled, the result of damaging storms on Tuesday that left major damage to Madison County and forced schools there to turn out classes the remainder of the week.
Down 52-43 to the Falcons with just under six minutes left in Wednesday’s rematch of an earlier game won by UC 58-57, Brown — the reigning Class A Mr. Basketball and a McDonald’s All-American nominee — repeated his heroic efforts of last month to help Union City also put an exclamation point on a second straight 18-0 District 14A slate.
Brown scored 13 of his game-high 25 markers in the final 4:20 and 11 straight during the time when UC overtook Lake County. The first of his 3-pointers forged a 52-all deadlock, and he then converted one of five Falcon turnovers during the telling stretch into a made layup.
After LC had tied the contest at 54 via two Channin Geanes’ free throws with 4:07 left, Brown then buried a deep three-ball at the 3:26 mark to give the Tornadoes a lead they would not lose. He capped his fabulous stretch with a jaw-dropping trey after breaking down a Falcon defender that made it 60-54 at the 2:30 mark.
“He just absolutely put us on his back and carried us,” Union City head coach Shane Sisco said of Brown’s phenomenal play late. “MJ’s biggest strength is he knows when to get the ball into other people’s hands. He also knows when we need for him to take over and be more aggressive as far as him looking for his own shot.”
Brown’s deeds did not suck the life out of the Falcons, though, as they twice closed to within a single deuce in the last two minutes. LC (25-5, 14-4) even had a chance to tie or take the lead in the waning seconds, but Tremaine Abbott missed on a driving attempt and Geanes’ follow shot wouldn’t drop with the Twisters holding on to a 62-60 lead.
One of two free throws by Andre Coby with six seconds left provided the ultimate final margin as neither team could gain possession after a couple of scrambles following Coby’s missed second charity.
“The thing I was most pleased with was I never sensed that we panicked, even being down by nine in the fourth quarter against a very good basketball team,” Sisco added. “Our facial expressions never changed, and I attribute that to being a senior-oriented team and the fact that we’ve been in that type of situation before.”
Much as it did in the first meeting between the two, Lake County controlled the tempo of the contest and never allowed the Tornadoes to speed up the action to their desired pace.
The reason was two-fold: The Falcons’ zone defense — especially the length of angular LC players Russell Avery and Geanes — and the fact that Union City shot poorly from the field, a reality that kept the Twisters from setting up their vaunted fullcourt pressure.
At one time, UC was 5-for-27 from 3-point range.
A 13-2 Lake County surge after Cameron Callicott and Brown had made 3-pointers to start the game helped the Falcons lead by as many as five in the opening frame. A stretch of 10 unanswered markers by the visitors late in the second stanza turned a five-point deficit into a five-point lead as Abbott made a pair of trifectas and also converted an old-fashioned 3-point play.
LC quickly expanded on its 30-27 halftime lead, going up by as many as eight in the third quarter and three times enjoying nine-point cushions in the fourth frame before the Brown-fueled Union City comeback.
Lavan Mosley joined Brown in double figures with 14 points, while Geanes topped Lake County with 20.
LC. 55, Union City 47 (G)
An ill-timed offensive drought over the final four minutes spoiled what was otherwise the Lady Tornadoes’ best outing of the past few weeks.
LC outscored Union City 11-3 over the last 4:10 as the locals failed to make a basket for over 31/2 minutes down the stretch.
“I’ve gone back and looked and this was our 12th game that was decided in the last four minutes, and we’ve lost 11 of them,” said Twister girls’ coach Jeff Chandler, whose team dropped its seventh straight. “A lot of that can be attributed to playing several sophomores and underclassmen, but simply put, we’re just not finishing games that we have a chance to win.”
UC did show some signs of offensive life after three straight games of 30 points or less.
The Lady Tornadoes scored 11 consecutive points during one first-quarter span and battled what is generally considered one of 14A’s most-talented clubs on even terms in a first half that was deadlocked at 29 at intermission.
The locals then scored six straight to close out the third stanza and break away from a 33-all tie as Micah Warford, Shenisha Huff all made baskets.
Lake County answered with an 11-1 flurry to open the stretch run and retake a 44-40 lead before hoops from Mary Steward and Warford evened things up halfway through the deciding frame.
“I was pleased to see us create some offensive chances for ourselves with our pressure, and the fact that we converted some of those into points was a good sign, too,” Chandler added. “We get up for Lake County. It’s a rivalry for some of our kids, and they seem to bring out the best in us.”
Warford led UC in scoring with 12 markers off the bench, while Sarah Wallace topped all point makers with 19 — 11 in the fourth quarter.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.