The defending Government Secondary Schools Sports Association (GSSSA) senior boys basketball champions, the Doris Johnson Mystic Marlins, pulled away from the C.I. Gibson Rattlers in the fourth quarter, winning 70-58, to take the decisive game three of their best-of-three championship series at Loyola Hall on Gladstone Road on Saturday night and repeat as champions.
The other three divisions wrapped up on Friday in two-game sweeps.
In the senior girls division, the Rattlers were able to defend their title with a 47-33 victory over the Anatol Rodgers Timberwolves.
Successfully winning a fifth straight title was the D.W. Davis Royals junior boys team as they took down the Timberwolves, 53-36.
Repeating as the junior girls champions were the T.A. Thompson Scorpions as they held on for a narrow 41-39 victory over the H.O. Nash Lions.
Mystic Marlins 70, Rattlers 58
To get to this game, the Mystic Marlins pulled off an epic 62-56 comeback win over the pennant-winning Rattlers on Friday, forcing a game three.
Before Friday night, the Mystic Marlins were unable to figure out the Rattlers who had their number this season, winning the previous two match-ups. However, the Mystic Marlins prevailed when it mattered the most.
Game three provided everything that it was expected to be as both teams gave it their best.
After dropping 20 points and 19 rebounds on Friday night, Most Valuable Player (MVP) Richard Lowe, the Mystic Marlins’ starting center, finished with another double-double on Saturday, this time scoring 19 points and pulling down 17 boards.
After Chad Smith put the Rattlers up 3-0 on an early three-pointer to start the game, the Mystic Marlins responded with an 11-0 scoring run to take an 11-3 lead midway through the first quarter. That run included two three-pointers from Maleek Pierre who finished the game with eight points.
Matthew Saunders gave the Mystic Marlins its first double-digit lead when he connected on a three-pointer to put his team up 17-7. Saunders scored six points in the game.
At the end of the first period, the defending champs were up 24-11, looking like they were going to win in a blowout.
It was the Mystic Marlins’ Davon Simms who gave his team its largest lead of the game of 18 points when he had a putback lay-up midway through the second quarter. That put his team up 32-14.
The Rattlers managed to cut the deficit down to 11 at the half, trailing 38-27.
The Mystic Marlins shot 38.9 percent from the field as their counterparts shot 27.3 percent in the first half.
Anyone who watches GSSSA high school basketball knows that Kevin “KJ” Johnson and his Rattlers teams will fight to the end.
In the third quarter, the Rattlers went into a full court press, conducted by Head Coach Johnson.
Mystic Marlins Head Coach Denycko Bowles said he knew that the Rattlers were going to make a run.
“The guys came out extremely hot,” Bowles said. “We jumped on C.I. real quick but we know they had some fight in them. They are a championship-caliber team, so we know at some point of the game they were going to make a run.”
Smith, who finished with 11 points in the game, tied it up at 44 with a made three-pointer with 2.35 left in the third quarter.
With 2:09 remaining in the third period, Rattlers team Captain Saheed Sanusi made a lay-up, giving the Rattlers a 46-44 lead. It was their first lead in the game since the first bucket of the game. Sansui led the way for his team with 17 points.
At the end of the third period, it was tied at 49.
Sansui gave his team their biggest lead of the game when he connected on a jumper with 7.08 remaining in the game. The Rattlers led 53-49 at that point.
Lowe was instrumental at this point as he went to work in the post, drawing fouls that sent him to the free throw line and he was able to convert on his free shots for the most part.
“We had to keep our composure and make sure we keep everything good and come out and execute on everything that we had to do,” Lowe said.
After a few minutes of trading baskets, with the Rattlers taking a 57-54 lead, the Mystic Marlins decided to take over.
They were led by none other than junior national team member Joshua Burrows who came alive for his team. He made a turnaround jumper off the glass just outside of the paint to put his team up 58-57. The Rattlers only scored one point the rest of the way.
Burrows put his team on his back, giving them a 62-57 cushion with 2:18 left with another shot.
“We just had to withstand it just like a heavyweight match – they threw a punch and we threw one back. We just had to consistently be on them tonight. We had a similar experience in game one on Tuesday night but the guys didn’t want to get back to that point. We know once we kept the game close, we would allow our energy and momentum to carry us through. We were able to capitalize defensively and offensively in the game,” Bowles said.
The Rattlers looked rattled as they missed shots, lay-ups and free throws down the stretch.
Johnson said the same thing that happened last year and it happened again this year.
“We went up three or four points and we missed too much lay-ups and free shots. The same thing that happened last year happened this year. We played hard, we tried and we fell short. This team is coming back next year and at the end of the day hopefully we will capitalize next year,” Johnson said.
Burrows made the final four free throws for his team that gave them a 70-58 lead which ended up being the final score of the game. He finished the game with 16 points, six rebounds and five assists.
Burrows said that playing on the junior national team helped him to understand the game of basketball. Despite having a few turnovers in the first half he said he had to let that go. He was huge in the fourth quarter for his team.
“Basketball is a game of possessions and if you have one bad possession you cannot hang your head down from that. You just have to let that go and move on to the next possession and look to score the ball.”
Those four free throws from Burrows were a part of a 16-1 run by the Mystic Marlins to end the game as the Rattlers ran out of gas.
Bowles spoke highly of Lowe and Burrows’ leadership in the series and how hard they have worked to get here.
“Josh and Richard, both of them bring experience and leadership to Doris Johnson basketball. Both guys work tirelessly every single day, morning, afternoon, late night – they put in the work. Tonight was nothing short of the work they have put in. Thank God for the victory but both guys have grown not only as players, but individuals. The have brought that leadership ability and experience to Doris Johnson,” Bowles said.
The Mystic Marlins have little time to celebrate as they have to get ready to defend their Hugh Campbell Basketball Tournament title. That tournament is set to get underway today.
For Johnson and his Rattlers, he said that he and the team will bypass that tournament this year. He said he will take his players to a basketball tournament in Orlando, Florida, then come back and get ready for the National High School Basketball Championships.
Lady Rattlers 47, Timberwolves 33
Tempers flared with 42.6 seconds left in the third quarter as parents and officials ran to the floor, and after everyone settled down, two players – one from the Rattlers and the other from the Timberwolves – were ejected.
One of those players was Timberwolves’ key player and center Erin Williams. Before she was ejected, the Rattlers held a 30-26 lead.
The Rattlers went on a 17-7 run to end the game and sweep the series.
Leading the way for the Rattlers was Glennia Sands with a game-high 18 points. She also had three steals and four rebounds.
Jeansline Garson chipped in with 11 points and five assists. She also finished with five steals.
The Rattlers had a whopping 19 steals in the game.
The only double-digit scorer for the Timberwolves was team Captain Laverne Armbrister. She had 15 points and contributed 14 rebounds in the loss.
Royals 53, Timberwolves 36
The Royals captured an impressive fifth straight GSSSA junior boys title and they did so without a blemish to their record over the last five years.
In this game, they easily took care of the Timberwolves. They led 13-4 after the first quarter and never looked back.
At the end of the third quarter, the Royals held a 39-25 lead. If the Timberwolves had any plans of making a comeback it was thwarted midway through the fourth quarter.
The high-point man in the game was Frank Wallace as he finished with 18 points for the Royals. He also had four rebounds and four assists.
Phillip Dawkins was the only other Royals player who scored in double figures. He finished with 14 points.
The Timberwolves never led in the game.
Michael Finley scored a team-high 15 points while grabbing two rebounds.
Scorpions 41, Lions 39
With under 20 seconds remaining, the Lions missed two key free throws and the Scorpions held on to win their second straight GSSSA junior girls championship title.
Leading the way for them was none other than Adena Webster. She finished with a double-double with game high totals of 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Dominiqua Rolle was also instrumental in the win as she finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and a game-high seven steals.
The game saw seven lead changes and six ties.
It was a hot start for the Scorpions as they took a quick 8-0 lead. The Lions stormed back to end the period on an 8-1 run, trailing just 9-8 at the start of the second quarter.
The Scorpions went on a 9-0 run to take a 22-14 lead in the second quarter, but the Lions battled back again. The first half ended 22-16 with the Scorpions leading.
The Lions took the lead in the third quarter, going on an 11-0 run. They went ahead 27-22 after scoring the first 11 points of the third quarter.
In the end, the Scorpions were too much for the Lions, who did their best to force a game three. The Scorpions battled back in the fourth and surged ahead. They held on for the slim victory, wrapping up their second consecutive GSSSA junior girls title.