Down seven points with 5:13 left in the game, it seemed Thurgood Marshall was exhausted and out of gas.
But the Phoenix (16-12) went on a 14-0 run over the next four minutes, and hung on for a 52-47 victory over Lincoln High School to advance to the Academic Athletic Association championship.
Senior center Mark Alexander was the catalyst once again for Marshall, leading the Phoenix with 16 points,
22 rebounds and seven blocks.
“What Mark did today was unbelievable, just phenomenal,” Marshall coach Dezebee Miles said. “But that’s what he’s been doing for us all year. We’re never out of it with him and we depend on him to do what he does for us.”
Sophomore forward Preston Demming contributed 13 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, as Marshall will be aiming to win its first championship in school history.
“It got grim there for a minute in [the fourth quarter], but one thing I knew was that my guys wouldn’t stop fighting until the game was totally over with,” Miles said. “I knew if we could get two stops and two baskets, we’d be right back in the game.”
Marshall virtually led throughout the contest until the Mustangs’ Douglas Snoddy made a free throw that gave Lincoln a 31-30 lead with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
Lincoln (20-13) then got back-to-back 3-pointers from guards Mitchell Lee and Chris Young, part of an 11-2 Mustangs spurt, giving them a 37-32 lead.
But the one area that led to Lincoln’s demise was the free-throw line. The Mustangs shot 9-for-26 from the charity stripe, and six turnovers in the final frame were too much to overcome.
“We weren’t strong with the ball and we didn’t show enough patience [offensively], especially when we got the lead,” Lincoln coach Matt Jackson said. “Going 9-for-26 from the line did not help. We’ve been around a 70 percent free-throw shooting team.”
After Snoddy’s layup gave Lincoln its largest lead of the game at 44-37, Marshall’s comeback began.
After two baskets cut it to 44-40, Alexander’s block started a Marshall fastbreak, with Demming finishing a layup.
From there, the momentum was all on the Phoenix bench.
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