By Matt Nestor
The East E-Rabs had done almost everything right for three quarters Friday, Dec. 10.
After closing out the second quarter on a 17-0 run to go up by 14 at the half, and still holding a 5-point lead after three, East was holding a 3-point lead with 34 seconds left in the game with the ball.
But after an ill-advised pass by point guard Javon Henderson gave the ball back to Harlem, and with the ball in the hands of the hot-shooting Michael Proscia of Harlem, the East fans were nervous.
But as he had all night, East senior Alonte Holliday dug in his heels, came up with a steal with 20 seconds left, then calmly put down two free throws to cap a 22-point effort and give the E-Rabs (5-2, 2-1) a 67-62 victory over Harlem (5-2, 1-2).
“My heart was beating so hard,” Holliday said of his game-clinching free throws. “My dad always tells me to just breathe. As long as I breathe, it’s all good, and I can calm myself down.”
The difference in the game for East was their play on the offensive glass. Harlem shot 5 percent better from the field and shot better from the free-throw line.
But a dominating effort on the offensive glass allowed the E-Rabs to take 12 more shots from the field and also shoot six more free throws. Holliday and Deontry Austin, who scored 16 for East, consistently got two and three shots off a teammate’s miss.
“We were just playing catch with it,” Holliday said. “Someone would shoot it, and another man would get the ball and put it back.”
East out-hustled Harlem for much of the game, which helped lead to the massive run to end the second quarter. East coach Roy Sackmaster said his team is good at runs because of their aggressiveness, and that probably was the reason for the win.
“I think we’re going to be a team of runs. We thrive off of each other’s energy,” he said. “It ended up being the difference in the game. When they made a run back at us, it was just to get close instead of the other way around.”
For Harlem, it was a quick start on the road, which usually leads to a victory. The Huskies led 17-12 after the first quarter, behind 9 points from Tre Wagner.
Then, the senior was shut down after that, however, only hitting two free throws to finish with 11. Will Kerr was 5 of 6 from the field to lead Harlem with 13.
East recovered from the quick start thanks to the second-quarter run, which was kicked off by Andrew Lantz. The junior hit three straight three-pointers off the bench to keep East in the game early.
“That’s another nice thing about our team is our depth,” Sackmaster said. “We had a couple of kids who came in and gave us a new look. It’s nice having a shooter that can come off the bench and give us a lift.”
More importantly for East, the win was a good sign for the future. Even while shooting 38 percent from the field, and under 50 percent from the free-throw line, and falling behind early, they found a way to win the game.
“Despite coming out flat with them coming out ready to go, and the fact that we didn’t do a lot of the little things that we normally do,” Sackmaster said. “To get a win, that is a sign that we’re a decent team.”
Elsewhere in NIC-10 action:
→ Anthony Strickland scored 14 to lead five players in double figures as Auburn (6-1, 3-0) stayed undefeated in the conference, topping Belvidere 86-45. Belvidere (4-3, 0-3) was led by Mike Hernandez, who scored 12 points.
→ Guilford (6-4, 3-0) kept pace with Auburn at the top of the conference. Marcus Hardison led the Vikings with 13, while four other players scored 11 points, leading Guilford to a 61-43 win over Freeport (3-3, 1-2).
→ Boylan (5-2, 2-1) got 11 points from Chris Miller to help Boylan survive a 34-29 slugfest against Hononegah (5-2, 1-2).
From the Dec. 15-21, 2010 issue