Nick Pierce, Correspondent (@ on Twitter)
Tallahassee, FLA. (franchisesportsonline.net.) – Zim Nwokeji scored 22 points and the Maclay Marauders held East Gadsden to just 15 second half points, winning a 41-39 thriller on the final game of the MLK Invitational.
Down 40-39 with 22.6 seconds remaining, two East Gadsden players forced a jump ball. The Jaguars won the possession arrow, giving them one last chance to take the lead. Maclay’s defense held strong, and Pace Wilson came down with the game clinching rebound. Wilson then made one of two free-throws with three seconds left, icing the game.
“We want to be prepared for every situation,” said Maurader coach Eugene Granger. “At the end of the season, if we make a run, any situation can come up, so close games like this are good for us.”
Maclay had a slow start to Monday night’s game and were held scoreless through the first 3:30 of the first quarter.
Things changed when Nwokeji came off the bench. Highlighted by a dunk assisted from Robert Parker-Crawford, the 6-foot-8 forward carried his team on a 16-5 scoring run over the next three minutes, putting the Marauders up 16-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Maclay struggled shooting the ball in quarter number two. East Gadsden’s aggressive defense held the Maruaders to just 2-10 from the field. The Jaguars went on an 11-1 run in the first six minutes, surging to a 24-23 halftime lead.
“Sometimes our shots go in, and sometimes they don’t,” said Granger. “But we’re not going to get discouraged. We’re still going to continue to put up shots.”
Nwokeji turned the tide once more in the third quarter. The Sophomore scored 11 of Maclay’s 13 points, giving the Mauraders a 36-30 lead.
“Nwokeji is a tall player,” said Granger. “He can do everything. Rebounding, finishing at the rim, you name it.”
The lead would not change for the rest of the game. East Gadsden was able to tie it at 39 with 1:15 remaining, but Nwokeji forced a foul on Maclay’s ensuing possession. He made one of two free-throws, putting the Marauders up for good.
Maclay travels to face Port St. Joe tomorrow night. The Marauders won the pair’s last meeting 61-40.