Coming into the game with a record of 16-11 overall and 6-3 in conference play, the Brookhaven College Bears men’s basketball team played their final game of the season Feb. 13 against the North Lake College Blazers. The Bears got off to a hot start with a score of 21-11 after the first 10 minutes of the game, but the Blazers went on a run of their own, edging out the Bears with a final score of 77-79.
The Bears executed a stifling defense, allowing only 11 points in the first 10 minutes. Chisom Obineke made bucket after bucket for Brookhaven to start the first half. The Bears’ defense led to numerous breakaway opportunities.
With 11 minutes to go in the first half, the Bears forced a turnover and quickly pushed the ball up court toward the Blazers’ basket, which was guarded by one defender.
Brandon McClure led the one-on-one break for the Bears and ran full speed before changing gears near the basket.
He avoided the defender and calmly made the bucket, giving the Bears a 19-9 lead.
Following the next possession, Jordan Enloe dribbled into the center of the Blazers’ defense before dishing the ball off to J’Michael Jasper, who slashed to the rim for the score. Jasper gave the Bears a 21-11 lead with 10 minutes left in the first half.
Momentum quickly swung in North Lake’s favor as they went on a 17 to 4 run to take the lead at 25-28. Just when the game seemed to slip away from the Bears, Jeremy Ford set up to inbound the ball from behind the Blazers’ basket.
Ford patiently waited as Obineke suddenly cut through the middle of the paint. Ford lobbed the ball up and over the backboard. Obineke rose up to catch the ball and slammed it down hard with two hands, cutting the Blazers’ lead to 1 point and electrifying the home crowd in the process.
On the next possession, a Blazer dribbled frantically into the Bears’ defense as Ford stepped in front of the ball handler. The two collided, and Ford crashed to the floor. The referee signaled it was the Bears’ ball as Ford drew one of many charges to give his team an extra possession.
“My mentality when taking charges is just to sacrifice my body for my team,” Ford said. “I feel when I take a charge, it gives us a boost of energy and excitement.” Ford finished the game with 7 points and team highs of eight assists and five steals.
McClure then snuck the ball past the Blazers’ defense to Obineke for 2 points, and the Bears led again with a score of 29-28 before going into halftime with a 33-32 lead. Neither team gained a comfortable lead during the second half. Baskets were traded, making it a close game until the very end.
North Lake led 69-73 as Brookhaven inbounded the ball. The inbounds pass was too high, but McClure leapt to save the ball from spilling into the backcourt before being fouled on the play, sending him to the free-throw line.
After McClure made a free throw and Obineke scored in the post, the score was 72-73 as North Lake held the lead.
The Bears started using a trap double team to pressure the Blazers into turnovers. It worked until the next play, when the Blazers skipped the ball up court to find the open man. The ball landed in the hands of Anthony Morales near the 3-point line. He quickly turned and sunk the 3-pointer. The score was 72-76, and the shot gave the Blazers the lead for good.
“A key reason we came up short in the end was because we couldn’t hit free throws late in the game when we needed them the most,” Ford said. “Along with that, we couldn’t get stops on the defensive end.”
With only one returning player, the Bears finished the regular season 16-12 overall and 6-4 in conference play. “It was a learning experience,” Obineke said. “I have no doubt that, come playoffs, we will be competing in the finals for New York.”
Obineke scored a team-high 24 points and racked up five rebounds and three steals in the game.
McClure ended the game with 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Jasper had 10 points and four rebounds.