By Bill Sorrell
A dunk made one team roar while a block made another soar.
With 5:52 left in the game, Germantown’s DeMarcus Mitchell slammed an anticipated dunk that raised the rafters, giving the Red Devils a 34-33 lead over arch-rival Houston.
With 3:21 left, Houston’s Bruce Guy blocked a shot but five seconds later was fouled. Guy sank two free throws to complete a 6-0 run by the Mustangs, giving them a 39-34 lead and they hung on for a 45-42 District 15-AAA victory on Friday at Germantown.
“When he came to the rim, I was thinking defense. I saw the ball. I just went up and grabbed it,” said Guy. “I think it caused a spark and got us rolling and second wind to keep pushing.”
Houston head coach William Buford said, “Anytime you get a great defensive play, it energizes the whole team. He (Guy) is our emotional leader. He is a sophomore but is our captain and he has been playing great throughout. He is a great kid all around.”
Finishing with a game-high 18 points, his average, Guy sparked Houston (12-6, 3-2) to third place in the district behind Ridgeway and Southwind. Guy grabbed a team-high nine of Houston’s 28 rebounds and Jalin Clay had 10 of Houston’s 18 steals.
The Mustangs also overcame a poor free throw shooting night when it counted. Hitting 14 of 34 free throws, Houston made seven in the last three and a half minutes.
“Horrible,” said Buford of his team’s overall free throw numbers. “At the end of the day, we made them when they counted. We went five of six. We have been up and down all year on free throws. One time we will shoot 88 percent, the next time 25 percent. We have got to be more consistent.”
Playing with a “real young” team this year after a senior-laden team last year, the Red Devils “are still learning how to play,” said Germantown head coach Jason James. “We don’t have any legit strengths. We are trying to get better every day. We have two guys that played meaningful minutes last year (Calmar Davis and Mitchell). Everybody is brand new.”
Recently committing to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Mitchell led the Red Devils with 15 points. His scoring and rebound average lead the team.
“He played well. We are trying to get him to continue to be consistent. He is a good kid and getting better.”
A senior, Mitchell committed to the Mocs because of a “good connection” with head coach Matt McCall and assistant coach Kevin Easley. He also liked the players there he said.
Mitchell’s dunk came as he was “feeding off the crowd. It feels good at the moment.”
Photo by Kevin Lewter
Houston’s Ryan Boyce slices through the Germantown defense Friday night in the district rivalry game.
The moment felt good to Houston players who lost three times during the 2015-16 season to Germantown.
“It was a huge game for us to win. I kept trying to let the guys know that. As the game went on, it sunk in. We wound up playing harder at the end. You are playing at a tough place. This is a rivalry game. There are bragging rights. They had some great seniors last year, especially senior guards. All three are playing in college. It meant a lot to these young guys because we have one senior (guard Josh Miller). All those guys were on varsity last year and didn’t get to play in this game,” said Buford, who is in his seventh season at Houston.
Defense is what sealed the victory Buford said.
The Red Devils led 22-17 at halftime and an earlier dunk by Mitchell gave them a 27-19 lead, their largest of the game, with 6:48 left in the third quarter.
After Houston missed three of four free throws because of a technical on Germantown, Miller sank a trey. After a free throw by Germantown’s Ashton Taylor put the Red Devils ahead 28-23, Clay scored and then Guy got a steal and score and Houston was within 28-27 with 1:57 left.
Mitchell’s free throws gave the Red Devils a 30-27 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Houston outscored Germantown 18-12 in the fourth quarter. Carlos Sandifer gave the Mustangs their first lead at 31-30 since they led 10-8 in the first quarter.
C.J. Norfleet put Germantown back on top 32-31 and Ryan Boyce got the Mustangs a one-point lead again, 33-32, with 6:32 to play.
Miller made it 36-34 and a steal by Clay led to his free throw and a 37-34 lead with 3:34 left.
Jeremiah Phillips’ cut the Mustangs’ five-point lead to 39-34 with two free throws. A trey by Davis pulled Germantown to within 41-40 with 1:40 left Kavious
Newsom sank a free throw and it was 42-40. A follow-up layup by Mitchell pulled Germantown within 43-42 with 24.6 seconds left after Clay’s free throw. Guy’s free throws with 23.3 seconds left made it the final score.
“The biggest thing to me, we played defense well. We did not shoot free throws or shoot the ball well tonight so our defense really came through for us,” said Buford. “The middle of the third quarter, we picked it up defensively. We started hitting the boards hard. We made them speed up a little more.”
James said, “When you play a good team who tries to speed you up, you can’t turn the ball over. That is what we did and that was the difference in the game. We just kept turning it over and turning it over. We can’t do that and expect to be successful. We have got to take care of the ball better. We are just inexperienced. We have got to be better. They have got to learn what it takes to win games.”
If Houston had played defense in the first half as it did the second half, “we would blow teams out” said Guy.
The Red Devils had the lead most of the first half and went ahead 13-10 on a trey by Taylor with one second left in the first quarter. After Sandifer’s free throw tied it at 16 with 3:17 left in the second quarter, Germantown took a four-point lead on a basket by Mitchell and free throws by Mark Johnson.
“I didn’t think we were ready to play. I didn’t think we came out with the intensity that we needed in order of this magnitude of a game,” said Buford, who played basketball at Longwood (Va.) University.
He did brag on Clay for his 10 steals. “That was big for us. He played really, really well.” Clay also added eight points.
“Bruce Guy played great defensively.”
Ryan Boyce scored four points, 13 points below his 17-point average. Boyce dislocated a finger last game.
“He gutted it out for us tonight. He was banging with us. That was a good thing. He didn’t hurt it anymore. He should be fine going forward. Our inside guys (Boyce and Guy) are so versatile,” said Buford.
Guy averages 12.7 rebounds and Boyce 8.9.
Boyce is being courted by LSU, Florida, SMU, Ole Miss and Miss State, while Guy is being recruited by Virginia Tech, SMU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas, said Buford.
Adding to the numbers for Houston were Newsom who scored three, Miller seven and Rodney Mason II one.
Germantown had Davis scoring seven, Norfleet five, Taylor eight, Phillips two, Morgan Long two, Johnson three.
“We are younger but we can manage, we can win, we can keep fighting through,” said Mitchell. “We are going to have to play harder and give more effort the next time we play Houston.”
The game was the first meeting this season between the schools.
“I learned that we will compete. We will rise to the occasion when it comes to a competitive level. We will play hard. We will scratch and we won’t give up.
Our execution has got to get a lot better,” said James, adding that his team is 8-8 with one district win.
Guy called it a team win.
“We focused on every aspect of the game and knocked down free throws in the crunch time,” he said.
The biggest fact about the Mustangs that people may not know is “we haven’t peaked yet,” said Buford. “We still haven’t played our best basketball. We have played in spurts but I am hoping as the year goes toward the end that we will play better and better.”