High School Sports

Spencer boys survive late scare to claim region tournament title

The Spencer Greenwave has consistently done the little things right in the team’s first winning season in five years. On Friday, those little things added up to a region title.

The Greenwave outlasted a late charge from the Jordan Red Jackets in a 64-63 thriller in the Region 5-2A tournament title game. Spencer dominated at times before allowing Jordan to close the gap, only to dash the Red Jackets’ hopes with heads-up play late.

After trailing by about two possessions for most of the second half, the Red Jackets grabbed a 56-55 lead with 4:40 remaining. Spencer fired off five unanswered points, the last two courtesy RiQuieto Leonardo’s put-back at the basket.

Junior Hill’s free throws with 2:26 to go closed the gap to 60-58, but his shots were the final high point for the Red Jackets. After Jemil Melendez hit one free throw to put Spencer up 62-61, Jordan had two free throws with 33 seconds left but missed both.

Spencer secured the rebound on the miss and began working the clock down. After a timeout, Kobe Barum found Jason Williams on an in-bound pass, which allowed Williams to drive down the lane for an easy lay-up.

After Williams’ shot, the Red Jackets hurriedly threw the ball down the court, where it fell out of bounds. Jordan then had another possession that led to two free throws, but both shots failed to connect.

Jordan still had a look at a 3-pointer as the final seconds ticked down, but the attempt missed the mark. Quentin Duke rebounded the miss and beat the buzzer, but that still left the Red Jackets wanting one more point.

“Free throws and determination (made the difference),” Spencer coach Eric Allen said. “I actually thought Jordan played with more heart than us, but they missed free throws. We made ours. It was a real exciting game. I’m proud of both teams. Our team came to fight, but Jordan really, really, really came to fight. It was just a good game.”

Spencer’s Jaquez Holt had a game-high 19 points in the victory. His efforts were complimented by Leonard, who had 17. Duke led the way for the resurgent Red Jackets, finishing the game with 16 points.

Allen lauded the work of his players to reach this point in the season, especially those in the senior class. The Greenwave players have been subjected to a few different head coaches over the course of their careers, but the constant change wasn’t an issue when Allen and coach Marcus Carter stepped in.

Allen and Carter worked together to change the culture, which led to moments like Friday night when the duo along with their players held up the region championship trophy.

“They believed in the system,” Allen said of his players. “I just love them, man. They play hard.”

Allen and his team still have plenty to accomplish with the Class 2A state tournament just around the corner. Allen said Friday’s win could be a great stepping stone to the postseason, as it showed the Greenwave could handle adversity when it reared its ugly head.

Spencer has gotten so far in the 2017-2018 season by doing the simple things correctly. With that in mind, Allen had only two objectives for his squad moving forward.

“Play defense, and don’t lose,” Allen said.

Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports