- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Tucked away in the corner of the basketball court, Melquan Williams stood there, hands at the ready and feet squared to the basket.
When he received the basketball late in Friday night’s contest against the hosting Leonardtown Raiders, the game tied at 57 and clock running with less than 10 seconds remaining in the game, he let the ball fly from his hands.
As the ball rotated through the air, his Great Mills Hornets teammates on the bench and the Hornets section of fans, both directly behind Williams, stood in unison and held their breaths.
The eventual exhales came as cheers when the ball splashed through the net, giving Great Mills a 60-57 lead with 6.2 seconds remaining.
A missed Leonardtown shot later, and it was official. Williams had delivered the Hornets the 60-57 victory.
“I knew it was going in,” Williams said of his shot.
Great Mills head coach Frank Peck called a time-out with 9.7 seconds remaining to draw up the play that lead to the game-winning basket.
“In the huddle, Coach [Peck] was telling us to look for the post, and if the post wasn’t there, square up and shoot it,” said Williams, who finished with seven points. “I wasn’t going to shoot it at first, but I squared myself up, shot it and it went in.”
It was Williams’ second game-winning shot of the season; he did the same against Leonardtown during the Southern Maryland Holiday Tournament opening round, a 69-68 win over Leonardtown on Dec. 27.
Peck added, “I told him that if they sag off and worry about the first cutter, you’re going to come wide open. I said, ‘If you get wide open, I want you to set your feet and knock it down,’ and to his credit, he did exactly what we wanted him to.”
The game-winner helped complete the come-from-behind victory; the Hornets were down 49-41 to start the final period of the contest.
Williams’ go-ahead basket also gave the Hornets its first lead since being ahead 18-17 with six minutes left in the second quarter.
But even before the shot, there were the last 3 minutes and 36 seconds of the game, in which the Hornets defense held Leonardtown scoreless, allowing for the comeback and eventual win.
“I think we were able to put some ball pressure on them,” Peck said. “We probably played our best defense in those last three minutes where we just kept them in front of us and we didn’t get beat off of the dribble. We had a lot of energy in those last few minutes.”
Trevon Porter led the Hornets comeback charge with a game-high 17 points, including 10 points in the fourth quarter. He tied the game at 57 with a basket at the one-minute mark. Ray McLeod added 13 points, and CJ Sampson poured in 11 in the victory.
“We played great team ball,” Williams admitted. “Everyone touched the ball tonight. There was good movement, everyone was touching the ball and I just loved the way we played tonight. This was one of our best games.”
Sampson added on the shot, “I was under the basket, and I just had faith in my teammate and I knew it would go in. This isn’t the first time he has done it. I am happy for him; I am proud of him. We came out with this team win, and I love it.”
Great Mills (11-9, 6-4 SMAC) has won three of the last four games and closes the regular season with an away contest at Thomas Stone at 7 tonight and an at-home game against Huntingtown on Friday night at 6:30.
Leonardtown (6-12, 3-7 after a 53-52 loss to Northern on Monday night) was led by Mike Day, who scored a team-high 16 points. Damien King added 14 points, and William Smith added 12 points in the second-straight loss for the Raiders and head coach David Holland.
“My boys have given me 100 percent in every single game we have played this year,” Holland said. “They have never let up, and they didn’t tonight.”