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MARIETTA (GA) – The McEachern Indians added another impressive victory to their resume this season at the 2017 SEBA Atlanta Hoop Festival.
Junior Isaac Okoro, who scored a game-high 32 points, also added another highlight clip to his greatest moments as a prep player in McEachern’s 82-66 win over Duluth at Pope High School on December 16.
Sophomore Sharife Cooper made sure it wasn’t a one-man show, adding 26 points, which included 11-of-12 shooting from the foul line, five assists and three steals for the 6-0 Indians.
“He’s one of the best point guards in the country,” Okoro said. “He knows how to facilitate, get everybody involved and be a great leader.”
Even though McEachern clearly had an advantage in height at almost every position, Duluth had dependable shooting from the outside to combat its disadvantage, and that helped the Wildcats take an early lead.
But in a matter of minutes, the Indians went from a 6-2 deficit to leading 22-6. Cooper started the run with a three-point play, followed by a 3-pointer and an assist to Babatunde Akingbola (nine points, seven rebounds, three blocks) for a dunk.
Then Okoro got involved in an extremely exciting way. After getting a steal, the 6-6 guard sprinted towards the basket and powered through 6-6 Bentley Grove for a thunderous one-handed slam and the foul. (Even though Okoro shot just 9-of-16 from the foul line, he made that free throw.)
“That shut the gym down,” said Okoro, who ranked the slam in the top 15 of his all-time list.
Like many other defenders on all levels of basketball, Grove has to be given some credit for contributing to this SportsCenter worthy play since he attempted to block the shot instead of running for cover like Brook Lopez did against LeBron James in Cleveland last Thursday.
But the highlights didn’t stop there. After Okoro tried to guide an alley-oop pass that was too high into the basket, Akingbola slammed the miss through the net for a 17-6 score. Cooper capped this burst with another 3-pointer and a pass to Okoro for a layup.
Duluth didn’t respond with a huge run of its own but chipped away with accurate outside shooting to get as close as four points in the second quarter and only trail 38-32 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Wildcats remained in striking distance, cutting the margin to a basket on several occasions but Okoro continuously had a response in the paint to keep his team in front.
“When I get the ball free-throw line extended, I like to take my time–know the right spots I like to take my shots from,” Okoro said. “Also if the defense collapses then find my teammates for open shots.”
Early in the final period, Adam Flagler (18 points) nailed a his third 3-pointer of the contest for a 51-50 score. The Wildcats had a few more good looks at the basket with the chance to take the lead but the jumpshots stopped falling.
Then Cooper converted a layup for a three-point play to rebuild the margin, and after a pair of free throws by Okoro, Jared Jones (10 points, seven rebounds) nailed a 3-pointer for a 59-50 score.
From there, the Indians never let Duluth get any closer than five points.
Will Huzzle scored 15 points and Lamont Smith added 11 for the 7-3 Wildcats.