Record-Setting Night for Trojan Basketball Includes Another Last-Second Game Winner

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020, 2:15 pm
Mark Meyer

Marcus Wourman Jr. dribbles past Lansing Catholic’s Alex Watters on his way to scoring the game-winning basket Tuesday night. (Photo by Gary Caldwell)

Marcus Wourman Jr. may have a new nickname by the time this season is over. The Trojan junior guard’s game-winning, last-second heroics were on display for the second straight week, as East Lansing turned back upset-minded Lansing Catholic, 76-74, in front of a festive Mardi Gras crowd at the ELHS gymnasium.

The Trojans, now 16-1, trailed by 11 points with under three minutes left in the third quarter when Lansing Catholic’s Sammy Jacobs scored on a driving layup to put the visitors ahead 58-47.

“We’ve seen them play, and I knew we’d be in for a battle,” East Lansing coach Ray Mitchell. “I’m not sure my guys believed me when I told them they’d better be ready to go. Because it wasn’t going to be easy.”

Wourman, who tied the game at 74 on a trey with :48 to play, wasn’t the only Trojan sharpshooter to have a big night. Sophomore guard Soraya Timms set a varsity girls basketball record with nine treys in a 59-28 victory at Heritage High School in Saginaw. Timms added two free throws (she had made 17 straight this season) for a career-high 29 points.

East Lansing sophomore Soraya Timms established a school record for three-point baskets — 9 — in Tuesday night's victory over two-time defending state champion Heritage High School. (Photo by Jim Pivarnik)

The Trojan girls, 18-1 overall and 11-0 in the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue division, will complete the regular season portion of their schedule Friday night at Everett. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Quick start for the Cougars: Lansing Catholic (14-4) made five of six three-point attempts in the first half and rebounded well at both ends of the floor to take a 41-34 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Trojans, playing without junior guard Andrel Anthony Jr. who was sidelined due to an illness, looked bewildered.

“It took us two and a half quarters to finally start executing our game plan,” Mitchell said. “What I told the guys is that we have to focus. You have to respect your opponent. I think we learned a lesson tonight.”

A two-minute flurry at the end of the third quarter narrowed the margin to two points, 60-58, and Brevin Jackson’s basket on the first possession of the fourth quarter brought the Trojans even for the first time since midway through the first quarter.

Mason Woods goes up and over Lansing Catholic defender Zach Gillespie for two of his 12 points Tuesday night. (Photo by Gary Caldwell)

Lansing Catholic senior center Charlie Nylander, a force around the basket all game long, scored four of his team-high 18 points on a put-back after a missed free throw followed by a lay-in off a pass from sophomore guard Alex Watters to put the Cougars back in front, 70-66, with 3:15 remaining.

East Lansing guard Mason Woods trimmed the lead to 70-68 on a pair of free throws but Jacobs answered again with his second basket of the game to put the visitors ahead 72-68 with 2:04 remaining.

Mitchell called timeout, and it was time for a few lines from “Stayin’ Alive” to remind the crowd that the Trojans have won several close games this season, including two in overtime at home (against Haslett and Holt).

Woods dropped in two more free throws (he made six of seven and finished with 12 points) to cut the gap to 72-70, and he then made one of two from the line with 1:20 remaining to slice the margin to 72-71. Lansing Catholic then broke through the Trojan full-court press and Nylander’s layup put the Cougars ahead 74-71 with 1:06 to play.

Tyrese Windham hugs Wourman (2) after his game-winning basket. (Photo by Gary Caldwell)

From there, it was Wourman’s time to be the hero again.

“It was just like [the play] we ran against Okemos,” Wourman said. “It was a fake ball screen and I play one-on-one basically. I find whoever is open or I take the last-second shot.”

With just over 12 seconds to play, Wourman received the inbounds pass on the Lansing Catholic side of the midcourt line. Wourman was guarded closely by Watters as he neared the top of the key but was able to free himself inside the free-throw line after several crossover dribbles. He released a floater from about 6 feet away that settled softly into the net with 1.8 seconds remaining. Lansing Catholic called time and then tried a full-court pass that was intercepted by East Lansing’s Malakai Matthews as time ran out.

“I almost picked up my dribble [too far from the basket], and that would have put us in a panic,” Wourman said. “So I just tried to make a move to get it [the ball] closer to the basket.”

Ethan Boyd (33) led a second-half comeback and helped rally the Trojans from an 11-point third quarter deficit. (Photo by Gary Caldwell)

East Lansing junior center Ethan Boyd had one of his best games of the season, scoring a season-high 11 points and grabbing seven rebounds while splitting time with sophomore center Ethan Dunn (seven points, four rebounds).

“He’s been trending up the last three or four games,” Mitchell said of the 6-foot, 6-inch Boyd. “He’s been playing really well offensively. Before the game one of the keys on the board was to dump the ball inside. Let’s get our big guys involved. Let’s start sharing and feeding these guys. They’re doing all the dirty work; now let’s reward them.”

Boyd singled out extra work in the weight room and at practice as the primary reasons for his improved performance. He could also see the team needed a jump-start in the third quarter.

“We needed some momentum, and I thought I could give that to us off the bench,” Boyd said. “That’s what helped bring us back at the end of the third and toward the end of the game. It was good to see people step up in that situation. I think we needed that as a team, to see everyone get involved and make plays.”

In addition to Nylander, the Cougars had three other players score in double figures: junior guard D.J. Ferguson (15 points), senior guard Sam Gonzalez (14 points, including three treys in the first half) and senior guard Zach Gillespie (11 points).

Trojan senior Malakai Matthews raises his arms in victory, as the Trojans post their 16th win against one loss. Next up is the CAAC Blue finale at Everett on Friday. A victory woud guarantee the Trojans at least a share of the league title.

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