- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
One bad quarter beget another Friday between the host McDonough Rams and county rival Thomas Stone Cougars, as neither team could take advantage of the struggles from the other until the fourth stanza.
Stone’s offense was held scoreless through much of the eight-minute second quarter, recording its first points of the period with 1 minute 35 seconds remaining in the half. Just four points were registered by Stone during the second.
Though McDonough owned an eight-point lead at intermission, its upper hand could have been much more. Then in the third, Stone flipped momentum dramatically with a 19-point quarter — as many points as it scored the entire first half — while McDonough suffered through a second straight period of single-digit scoring.
With Stone primed to take control of the low-scoring, ragged affair one minute into the fourth with a five-point advantage, McDonough senior Mahammed Sulemana changed the complexion of the game with his energy and pivotal baskets. He scored eight of his game-high 15 points in the final 4:56, triggered by a go-ahead three-ball that put McDonough in front for good.
Sulemana capped his clutch performance by sinking just enough free throws in the waning 33 seconds, going 4 of 6 at the line, to send McDonough to a 48-43 victory over a Stone outfit that has lost four of its last five games and has fallen to 5-5 on the season.
“In the fourth quarter, we slowed the ball down. We felt kind of rushed in the third quarter and got out of what we were trying to do in the first half,” said Sulemana, whose key three was part of a 12-1 McDonough run after Stone led 40-35.
Senior teammate Nicolas Lee (8 points) started the run with his second three-pointer of the night, followed by Sulemana’s bucket beyond the arc that gave McDonough (6-4, 0-1 SMAC) a 41-40 lead.
Sulemana added about his three-ball in the fourth, “It just gave me a lot of confidence because I know my coaches, they always tell us to worry about the next play. They always say if you give effort on both sides of the ball that later it’s going to come to you on the offensive end. When I hit the three, I felt like I got my confidence back to help my team win the game.”
Senior point guard Marquel Austin, who finished with 10 points while playing a lead role in containing his counterpart in Stone senior standout Michael Briscoe with just an uncharacteristic five points, was McDonough’s go-to scorer in the game until Sulemana emerged down the stretch.
“It was just a regular win. We all played together,” Austin said. “We just knew we had to stop the ball and rebound, little things like that, and hopefully get the win. We felt like we should’ve been up more [at halftime], then reality hit [in the third]. We all had to play together, work the ball around instead of playing one-on-one ball. It was a good win. We move on to the next game.”
Unfortunately for Stone, its third quarter was more of a mirage on the night.
Jordan Battle and Jasc Williams sparked Stone in the third with a combined 13 points, as the Cougars exhibited an urgency and intensity that had been missing going into halftime. Battle finished with a team-high 11 points, while Williams had 10, using their athleticism and strength to get high-percentage buckets in the third.
But the final quarter saw Stone revert back to its doldrums of the second quarter, scoring only five points in the fourth and that included Battle hitting a jumper 66 seconds into the period. The next — and final — Stone field goal came with just eight seconds left in the game when the outcome was all but decided.
Managing just four and five points respectively in the second and fourth quarters doomed Stone.
“I thought it was an ugly game,” said Stone head coach Dale Lamberth, who described his team’s second quarter as horrible. “I’ve seen this [McDonough] team play a couple games this year, and they were a different team. They didn’t play the same brand [of basketball] they were playing prior. To me, this was just an ugly game. And we played ugly, we played horrible. [McDonough] won, they gritted it out.”
About Briscoe’s sub-par night, Lamberth added, “What I tell our other guys, it can’t be that if he has a bad game that we’re doomed. We’ve been preaching that all year. It just can’t be a one-man show. It’s never been that at Stone, ever. I know that [McDonough] was aware of where he was but nothing spectacular [defensively].”
Stone’s league schedule takes off at 6:30 tonight versus visiting Calvert. The second showdown with McDonough will count in both teams’ SMAC records.
McDonough got cooled off Monday in the second of four straight home games, losing to Calvert by a 65-45 outcome to open its SMAC schedule. A woeful fourth quarter, unlike Friday against Stone, was the culprit in the loss. Austin led the way with 16 points.
McDonough had won three straight and six of seven prior to Monday.
“To be honest, this win will mean absolutely nothing if Monday we come out and take step backwards,” McDonough head coach Eulo Regala Jr. said after Friday’s win in prophetic fashion. “The biggest concern is perfecting how we play.
“Just the resolve of the kids to continue to fight through [the game against Stone impressed me most]. We missed probably 150 layups and certain individuals on the team uncharacteristically turned the ball over. But we were able to somehow fight through it.”
The Stone girls team (6-4, 0-0) got the best of McDonough (3-5, 0-1) Friday with a 50-41 home triumph. Like the boys game between the two schools, the female contest came down to the fourth. Stone was nursing just a 36-35 lead through three quarters until taking over the fourth.
Stone got balanced offense with a quartet of double-digit scorers leading the way. Kayeoni Jenkins had a team-high 12 points in the win with teammates Keisha Davis and Aleem King each scoring 11, while Jade Sink totaled 10 points.
McDonough, which rallied from a 12-3 hole after the opening quarter, was led by Robin Heard with 19 points and 11 rebounds.