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COLLEGE PARK (GA) – The ingredients for any comeback have to include better shooting, decisions and improved defense, and a very passionate student section doesn’t hurt either.
The Banneker Trojans had all of this in their “bag” as they dug their way out of a 25-point deficit to edge visiting Southwest Atlanta Christian 72-69 on Friday.
At the start of the fourth quarter, the Trojans (1-1) were not down by that margin but still trailed by 15 points. With just under six minutes to go, Banneker moved within single digits as the cheers grew louder. Then DreQuan Eason (six points, eight rebounds) capped an 18-1 run with a three-point play after an offensive rebound for a 60-60 score with 3:39 left.
“We were uncharacteristically off all night,” Banneker coach Earlando Courtney said. “It’s one thing to be off from 3 or off from the free-throw line or off from close but we were off from all three. I knew that couldn’t last but we had to get stops and increase the defensive pressure. Basketball goes in waves. I’ve always said you can’t knock down a 25-point lead in one shot but once we got to 15 I was thinking we might have a shot. Then we got down to inside of 10 with six minutes left in the fourth so it is a whole new ball game. Now the team that is leading the pressure is on them to perform.”
The Warriors (0-2) reclaimed the lead but lost it with 1:21 remaining when senior Shamar Karangu (15 points, four steals) netted two free throws for a 67-66 score. Then with less than a minute to play, Karangu converted a layup (the last field goal) to put the Trojans ahead for good.
“I have a bunch of shooters,” Courtney said. “Last year, I probably had one of the highest scoring players in the state. My motto this year is that I need everybody to give me six. I need all 13 guys to give me six. Six times 13 is 78. That will win me most games so you never know who’s night it’s going to be. Tonight it was Jalen Henderson [eight points] and Karangu.”
But Banneker failed to ice the game at the line, giving SACA two chances to tie in the final 10 seconds. The first was a 3-point miss by Aaron Lewis (15 points), and after Tre’Von Pope (12 points, seven rebounds) missed two foul shots, Lewis passed to Byron Kellam, who was a couple of steps behind the arc but wide open, yet his shot hit the back of the rim as expired.
“The crowd caused them to miss a lot of free throws and force a lot of turnovers,” Karangu said. “Without the crowd, we probably wouldn’t have came back like that.”
Fouls also hurt the Warriors’ chances late since their best shooters Quenton Thornton (22 points) and Christopher-Anthony Ford (14 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks) had fouled out. Thornton made four 3-pointers and Ford added two.
“They really had some kids that stepped up,” Courtney said. “Chris-Anthony Ford played his heart out. [Thornton] played his heart out and Lewis. We were bigger than they were, had more depth than they had but they fought–hats off to SACA.”
In the first half, the Warriors nearly turned this game into a rout in the second quarter thanks to 10 points from Thornton, who also outscored Banneker 15-14 before halftime. The Trojans struggled against the Warriors’ 2-3 zone, converting just two field goals in the first half.
“We got to do a better job of staying the course not starting so slow, converting our layups and concentrating on our free throws,” Courtney said. “They realized tonight that they dodged a bullet. They could’ve really got embarrassed by a team that you should have beaten easily or handily and you made it a game. It was exciting but in the grand scheme of things it left you knowing you have to get better.”