Wourman’s Last-Second Heroics Lift Trojans Into League Lead

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Wednesday, February 19, 2020, 9:15 am
By: 
Mark Meyer

Marcus Wourman Jr. is wrapped up in the arms of teammate Malakai Matthews (15) while Andrel Anthony Jr. (3) and Brevin Jackson (20) celebrate Wourman’s game-winning shot against Okemos Tuesday night. (Photos by Gary Caldwell)

The team that has shown an affinity for winning close games all season long has found its way to the top of the league standings.

The East Lansing boys basketball team defeated Okemos 45-43 Tuesday at the ELHS gymnasium on a last-second shot by Marcus Wourman Jr. to take a half-game lead in the race for the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue division title.

East Lansing raised its overall record to 14-1 and is now 10-1 in the CAAC Blue. Okemos, which defeated East Lansing 69-51 earlier this season, dropped to 12-4 overall, 9-1 in the league.

Also on Tuesday, the Trojan girls basketball team extended its league record to 12-0 (16-1 overall) with a 63-24 victory at Okemos. The win clinched East Lansing’s 16th league title in the past 18 seasons for head coach Rob Smith (below). The Trojans can claim the title outright with a victory Friday at Grand Ledge.

“It wasn’t our best shooting night, and we had some girls in foul trouble in the second quarter, but all in all a very good win for East Lansing basketball,” Smith said.

Last shot wins it: Wourman’s game-winning shot from just inside the three-point arc broke a tie at 43 after Okemos forward Grant Holtzer had stolen an East Lansing inbounds pass at midcourt and raced in for a layup with 26 seconds to play.

Following an East Lansing timeout, Wourman received the inbounds pass from Andrel Anthony Jr. with 12 seconds left and looked over the Okemos defense.

“The play was to look to Andrel [Anthony] or Mason [Woods], and get them the ball if they were free,” Wourman said. “But [Okemos] did a good job of collapsing and taking away the middle. [Okemos defender Noah Pruitt] was backing away from me, giving me some room, and I felt really comfortable taking that shot.”

Marcus Wourman Jr. slips past Okemos defender Grant Hinterman for two of his team-high 13 points.

Okemos head coach Jeff Wonch wasn’t concerned about fouling on the last shot but he didn’t want his team to give up a layup or shot near the basket.

“We talked about not worrying about fouling, just get a stop,” Wonch said. “Whatever they were going to shoot was going to be over the top of us, not around us. We wanted to make sure if they were taking the last shot that it would be contested.”

East Lansing, which led 31-30 to start the fourth quarter, increased the margin to 39-34 with 2:58 remaining on a three-point play by Wourman. Holtzer countered with a three-point play of his own before Wourman answered back with a field goal to put the Trojans ahead 41-37 with 2:28 play.

Okemos senior guard Noah Pruitt trimmed the East Lansing lead to two before Trojan junior forward Andrel Anthony Jr. scored on a fast-break pass from Ethan Boyd for a 43-39 lead with 1:07 to play.

The East Lansing bench, including head coach Ray Mitchell (far right), watches and gets ready to celebrate the game-winning shot.

Pruitt, who led Okemos in scoring with 13 points, scored with :56.8 remaining to cut the deficit to two, setting the stage for Holtzer’s game-tying steal.

“We had so many opportunities early and the turnovers [seven in first quarter, 13 for the game] didn’t help,” Wonch said. “But credit [East Lansing’s] strength and active hands. We just didn’t shoot very well.”

After Wourman’s shot settled into the net, Okemos called its final timeout with 1.5 seconds remaining. Its last-ditch, length-of-the-court inbounds pass was intercepted, setting off a Trojan celebration.

“It’s awesome, it’s a great feeling, and it’s what we’ve been building on for the whole season,” East Lansing head coach Ray Mitchell said. “Last time they beat us by 18 points at their place. We had to change some things up and concentrate better defensively, especially guarding against the open three in transition. We had to eliminate that and make those guys work hard to get their shots.”

Woods (above), a sophomore, scored 12 points and led a third-quarter surge with two treys and a key assist on a fast-break basket by Boyd to help build a brief, but important, six-point Trojan lead (31-25).

“I feel like the only ones who can stop us now is ourselves,” Woods said. “We took care of some things at halftime, and we’re better for it. We came out in the second half with some fire, and we got the dub.”

East Lansing basketball fans had plenty to cheer about Tuesday night.

Championship feeling: The Trojan girls scored the first 22 points of their game against Okemos and never looked back, despite two of their guards having three fouls apiece in the second quarter.

“We need to clean a few things up,” Smith said, “but I was pleased with the way the girls were taking good shots and attacking the basket. They ran the fast break well and were looking for each other.”

Senior Aaliyah Nye led the Trojans in scoring with 25 points. She made 11 of 21 field goal attempts but was 3-for-10 from 3-point range.

“She was getting some wide-open looks, but her threes weren’t falling like they usually do,” Smith said.

The Trojans led 38-11 at halftime, thus enabling Smith to rest his starters and play everyone in the second half.

"A good effort. We’ll go to Grand Ledge and hopefully finish our business.”

 

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