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The foul bug bit. Hard. It afflicted Stonewall Jackson leading scorer J.R. Washington so much that he spent stretches of the first half in a seated position, relegated to a mostly motivational role.
Depth Rallies Stonewall Past Gar-Field
© Gainesville TimesThe foul bug bit. Hard. It afflicted Stonewall Jackson leading scorer J.R. Washington so much that he spent stretches of the first half in a seated position, relegated to a mostly motivational role.
With Washington, who averages nearly 25 points per game, held without a field goal in the first half, the team around him accepted the challenge in the Raiders’ 61-51 win over Gar-Field Saturday.
“We’re a complete team,” said Stonewall Jackson coach Marcus Lawrence. “We’re about nine or ten deep. We practice that every day, and we knew we were going to have to step it up when we got into foul trouble.”
Mustafa Ali led the Raiders (13-6, 7-0) with a team-high 15 points, doing most of his damage at the line where he converted at a 75 percent (9 for 12) clip.
“Mustafa has been a tremendous scorer for us all year and he stepped up again,” said Lawrence.
Lawrence knew his team would be challenged in ways they haven’t been in recent weeks; the Raiders had outscored their three previous opponents by a margin of 266-155.
“We knew we would have our hands full,” said Lawrence. “I thought [Marcus] Farber did a heck of a job on [Zach] Fong. Fong’s just incredible.”
Fong still managed to lead Gar-Field with 19 points, including five treys, and he did so without his complement. Curtis Lovitt, sidelined with an upper body injury, was a visible absence from the Indians’ lineup.
“It’s 14-15 points per game, three or four steals, four to five assists, five rebounds; that would’ve made a big difference,” said Gar-Field head coach Andy Gray of Lovitt’s potential impact. But we still had opportunities… To their credit, they [Stonewall] played great and they’ve got a very good basketball team.”
Stonewall led 13-11 after one and 30-22 at the break, but Gar-Field managed a run late in the third. The Indians pulled within two, at 39-37 with a pair of free throws by Danate McClendon.
According to Lawrence, the Raiders allowed Gar-Field back into the game by eschewing the half-court offense in favor of run-and-gun matchups.
“In the third quarter, we stopped running our offense and started playing one on one,” said Lawrence. “I regrouped them at the end of third quarter and we got back on.”
Ali cut the Indians’ comeback short when he converted a three-point play inside the final minute of the quarter. He drove, hit a floater, and picked up a blocking foul to send him to the line. His free throw gave the Raiders a 42-37 lead heading into the final stanza.
While he understands the value of a win against a talented opponent like Gar-Field, Lawrence isn’t ready to say his team has arrived.
“We haven’t clinched yet,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to go about next week.”
Gar-Field (15-3, 7-1) has dropped back-to-back games for the first time this season and will look to rebound against Forest Park on Wednesday Jan. 30. Gray isn’t worried about his team’s ability to bounce back.
“One of the things I think we do well is we get focused on the next one very quickly regardless of whether we’ve lost the previous one,” he said.
Gar-Field 51, Stonewall Jackson 61
GF: Fong 20, Deyo 10, McClendon 6, Roscoe 8, Bailey 6, C. Johnson 1
SJ: Ali 15, Washington 13, Berchie 11, Frye 8, Farber 5, Dennis 4, Stubbs 3, Stroman 2
Halftime: Stonewall Jackson, 30-22
3-pointers: GF 5 (Fong 5); SJ 4 (Berchie 3, Farber)
Free throws: GF (17 of 24); SJ (17 of 22)