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NORCROSS (GA) – Inbounding the ball into the backcourt can often be a risk for the offense and an opportunity for the defense, which in this case fully capitalized.
Mitch Ganote had a critical steal and layup in the closing seconds to lift Lambert (GA) to a 62-61 victory against Cardinal Newman (SC) in the 2018 Peachtree Corners Invitational at Norcross High on January 20.
There wasn’t much separation between the Longhorns and Cardinals the entire contest so a tied score (58-58) late made perfect sense. With 37 seconds left, Cardinal Newman tried to inbound the ball in its backcourt but Ganote deflected and stole the pass before dropping a very easy layup through the net for a two-point cushion.
“Mitch came up big down the stretch,” Lambert coach Scott Bracco said. “I think he ended up with 11 deflections. He’s tough as nails. He is our best defender. We put him on the other team’s best player and he made another big play for us.”
“I’d been giving him [Chico Carter Jr.] pressure all game so coach Bracco told me to go tight on him which means he doesn’t touch the ball,” Ganote said. “I was just doing my job to help us win.”
After Carter Jr. (21 points) turned the ball over driving to the basket, Ganote (10 points, eight assists, two steals and two blocks) sank two free throws to add to the margin with 24 seconds to go.
But eight seconds later, Joshua Beadle (10 points) cut the score to 62-61 on a pass from Carter. Then on the ensuing possession, the Cardinals forced a questionable turnover, reopening the door for a dramatic finish with 12 seconds remaining.
But Carter Jr., who thrived on his pull-up jumper all game, saw his runner roll out then Patrick Reedy’s tip was off the mark. Now with everyone scrambling for the ball, Beadle possessed it near the elbow but his shot fell short at the rim and Mcilwain corralled the rebound to seal the win.
“Our defense just hunkered down and did what we were supposed to do,” Ganote said.
In the second half, Mcilwain was key in helping the Longhorns keep pace, knocking down four of his five 3-pointers on the way to a team-high 21 points.
“He definitely shot lights out today,” Ganote said of Mcilwain. “He was the hot hand so I just tried to find him as much as possible.”
“Mitch manages the team really well,” Bracco said. “He gets the ball to the right guy. Jordan was shooting the ball very well in the second half and he made sure he got the ball to him. He normally makes the right play.”
Before the halftime break, Damon Stoudamire Jr. was all over the glass on his way to a 14-point, nine rebound performance.
Reedy (nine boards) and Shane O’Connor both finished with eight points for Cardinal Newman.