On a play designed for at least three of his other South Pointe teammates first, Montez McCullough ended up taking the last shot in a tied boys basketball game with Northwestern on Thursday night. The senior coolly dropped in a 10 to 12-foot jumper from the right baseline with 2.4 seconds left to beat the Trojans 70-68.
I wasnt expecting it, because the play we called wasnt really set for me, said McCullough. But things just worked out for me. I got the shot and I was able to knock it down. Mid-range jumper, thats my shot.
After South Pointes Tyreece Brice followed up a missed 3-point attempt to tie the game at 68-all with 6 seconds left, it looked like the visiting Trojans (10-3) would get the final shot of regulation. But the ensuing inbound pass was errant, landing in the hands of Northwestern coach Larry Davis instead of any of the purple-clad players on the court.
That gave Melvin Watsons Stallions (7-4) the ball under their basket with the same amount of time on the clock. Surely Brice, Anthony Johnson or Mustafia Love would get the last shot, right?
I kind of figured in a situation like that they were gonna switch (defensively) on everything, so if we screened good and one guy comes open, they were gonna pay a lot of attention to him, Watson said. We had Tez roll back, and he did a great job following through and made the shot.
The Stallions used a 7-0 run around the 3-minute mark to erase Northwesterns 63-59 advantage and take a 66-63 lead with just over 2 minutes to play. Both teams showed teenaged decision making skills in the games decisive moments, but South Pointe was able to get some breaks chiefly Brices offensive rebound and bucket to seize upon Northwesterns wayward inbound pass and a missed front end of a one-and-one that could have iced a Trojans win.
We hit our free throws and the games over. Were not even talking about the last play, said Davis. So it really was still in our grasp to win the game.
Johnson led all scorers with 20, while Brice pitched in 17 and McCullough 10. Clenzo Ross followed up his Lindberg Moody Holiday Classic MVP performance from last week with 19 points to lead the Trojans, who also got 14 from Manzi Hill and 13 from Malcolm Anthony. Those six lit up a contest highlighted by the two teams vastly different methods of manufacturing points.
The games opening exchanges wrote the script for how the contest would unfold. Within 10 seconds, Johnson, who seemed to spend more of the game in the air than on the floor, soared in for a bucket plus the foul, before McCullough followed up a missed shot in transition for another two points. South Pointes press flustered the Trojans at times, but when they bypassed it, open shots were abundantly available. JaReg Feely knocked in a 3, and Will Chitwood hit the first of his three 3-pointers to tie the game at 6-6 with less than 3 minutes played.
At times in the first half South Pointe threatened to overrun the much more deliberate Trojans. Brice showed off his wheels by taking a steal end-to-end for a deuce, before Love stole the ball and lobbed to Johnson for a crowd-exciting slam.
That bucket gave Watsons crew a 17-10 lead, ultimately the largest lead for either team in the game. South Pointe led by three (38-35) at halftime and Northwestern led by two (51-49) heading into the fourth quarter. The Trojans surged ahead in the final period, Hill rebounding his own miss for two points, before Ross knocked in a triple courtesy of sharp ball movement by Davis team. Another extra pass, this one by Feely, led to a Chitwood 3 and a 63-59 lead for Northwestern.
With the game tied at 66, Feely made another nice dish, kicking ahead to Ross who leaked out off a missed shot for a layup with 32 seconds left and a 68-66 lead. After Brice missed in the lane to tie, Hill rebounded and was fouled, but clanked the front end of a one-and-one at the foul line.
Watson said he explained to his team what to do if Hill made the first or missed. But a Stallions guard got the ball with about 9 seconds left and launched a desperation 3-point attempt, seemingly unaware of how much time was left on the clock. Fortunately for the hosts, Brice was untouched on the backside for the game-tying putback.
Its like we had a mental lapse. That last shot was really a bad shot, said Watson. But Like I said, we got a bounce, just happened to have somebody on the backside to rebound, to tip it in.
On Northwesterns ensuing inbounds pass, Ross and a South Pointe player appeared to make contact, but no whistle shrilled and the Stallions took possession, setting up McCulloughs decisive bucket.
It could of went both ways, said Davis. Referee didnt see it in favor of a foul should have been called, but thats basketball.
South Pointe 70, Northwestern 68
Northwestern: Malcolm Anthony 13, JaReg Feely 5, Manzi Hill 14, Clenzo Ross 19, Tracus Chisholm 5; South Pointe: Tyreece Brice 17, Mustafia Love 5, Quay Brown 8, Chris Frazier 4, Anthony Johnson 20, Montez McCullough 10, Gabe Kirk 2.
3-pointers: NW- 11 (Anthony 3, Ross 3, Chitwood 3, Feely, Chisholm); SP- 1 (Brice)
Fouls: NW- 20; SP- 17
Records: NW- 10-3; SP- 7-4
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T