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ATLANTA – W.D. Mohammed ended up on the right side of a missed layup and a pair of made free throws.
With eight seconds left in overtime, freshman Bilal Abdur-Rahman (29 points) sank two shots at the foul line to help the visiting Caliphs edge Mount Vernon 65-63 in a Region 5-A thriller on January 3.
In a contest that was tight most of the way, the Caliphs nearly lost the game in regulation when they turned the ball over due to a five-second call with 5.1 seconds remaining and freshman Chase Clemmons (15 points and three steals) drove into the lane but left an uncontested, left-handed layup just short as the buzzer sounded with the score tied at 57.
During the extra session after Ahmad Abdur-Rahman (18 points, six rebounds) converted a layup to give W.D. Mohammed its first lead since early in the second half and Bilal Abdur-Rahman hit two free throws for a 63-60 advantage, Clemmons redeemed himself by nailing a clutch 3-pointer off the curl from atop the key to tie the score with 12 seconds remaining.
But on the Caliphs’ ensuing possession, they countered the Mustangs’ full-court press by making a pass from teammate to teammate out of bounds then passing the ball over the top of the defense, almost leading to a fast-break layup by Bilal Abdur-Rahman but a foul against Andrew Douglas (nine points, four steals).
“Coach called one of our specialty plays,” Ahmad Abdur-Rahman said. “We got faith in him getting the ball in the end. We knew we’ve been working on free throws the past two weeks. We had missed a lot of free throws in the first half of the season but we just said that is not going to be the reason we lose anymore. We worked on that and had faith he was going to make them.”
“We’ve practiced all kind of scenarios on what could happen,” W.D. Mohammed coach Farrad Abdur-Rahman said. “We were prepared. I knew where I was going. I was going to No. 1. Even though he is my son the boy is no joke. He was born to play this game.”
After Bilal Abdur-Rahman made both free throws, Syncere Harris (12 points, seven assists) had the chance to force another overtime but his floater bounced off the rim and Fahim Law (10 points, 10 rebounds) secured the loose ball and threw it to a teammate as time expired.
“I shoot so many of them every time in the gym–at least a 100 before I leave,” said Bilal Abdur-Rahman, who finished 14 of 18 from the stripe. “Honestly, I just black out it all and it’s really just like practice to me. It’s almost like a layup at this point.”
For a moment in the fourth quarter, Mt. Vernon appeared to be on the verge of securing the win comfortably especially after Harris found Jordan Wicker (18 points, 10 boards) for a layin and a 54-47 advantage with less than four minutes to go.
But Bilal Abdur-Rahman responded with a pair of 3-pointers which helped pull the Caliphs back within a chance of tying the game or taking the lead. Then while trailing 57-53 with 26 seconds to play, W.D. Mohammed caught a huge break when Alex Morge was called for a technical foul after players from both teams hit the floor trying to recover a loose ball.
As a result, Law, who was also fouled on the play, made four straight free throws to tie the game.
“Honestly with about a minute left in the game it wasn’t looking good,” Bilal Abdur-Rahman said. “I thought we might take an L but our coach kept telling us we weren’t going to lose. My boy hit four big free throws and when we got a chance in overtime, I was just making sure we weren’t going to lose.”
“We don’t have quit in us,” Farad Abdur-Rahman said. “It’s not in our makeup. We are going to fight to the end. That is the W.D. Mohammed way and let the chips fall where they fall.”
While the offense of Wicker, Clemmons and Harris was critical for the Mustangs, the defense played by Douglas against Bilal and Ahmad Abdur-Rahman was just as pivotal. During different instances of the contest, Douglas successfully denied Bilal and Ahmad Abdur-Rahman the ball. On one play, Farad Abdur-Rahman directed Ahmad Abdur-Rahman to stay in the backcourt since Douglas was denying him the ball but Douglas immediately countered the strategy by going to trap Bilal Abdur-Rahman and getting a steal for a fast-break layup.
“They went on a run and after we went on a run they kept rallying and scoring,” Bilal Abdur-Rahman said. “Chase hit a big shot down the stretch for that team. That is a great team. If we have to see them again–oh man.”