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By: Eric Van Dril | Jan. 20, 2017
Junior Jayden Gasby had four opportunities to put Urban Prep-Englewood ahead of Julian in the final minute of regulation on Thursday evening.
All four times, his free-throw attempt missed.
The Jaguars took a late lead on a long jumper by junior guard Stephaun Williams, but the Lions cut through Julian’s defense and senior guard Judah Phillips tied the game on a lay-up with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Phillips’ crucial bucket sent the game to overtime. It ensured that Urban Prep-Englewood still had a chance to stay tied atop the White-South.
It also provided Gasby with another opportunity to come through in the crucial moments of a must-win game.
“I was really nervous, but my team, they stepped up. They guided me. They were there for me,” Gasby said, following the Lions’ 58-55 victory in overtime. “My coaching staff, they were there for me. They told me, ‘Forget the free throws. You’ve got it. You’ve got this whole (overtime) to finish it. We can finish it.’ I was just humble. I knew that we could win this game, and my teammates stepped up. We all just stepped up.”
The four-minute overtime went back and forth. Julian went ahead, and then Urban Prep-Englewood did the same. The Jaguars (15-5, 4-4) tied the game with a free throw. Junior forward Keenan Davis, who had what he called the best game of his life on Jan. 19, then drained a pair of free-throws.
Julian scored the next three points — a steal and score by Williams, and one of two free throws by senior guard Jamari Johnson (17 points) — to take a 55-54 lead with less than a minute left in overtime.
The short-handed Lions, who were without senior guard Davonte Williams (knee), needed a basket. They went to Gasby.
Gasby drove, but the Jaguars cut him off. Their defensive pressure forced Gasby to pick up his dribble and fire an off-balance attempt from about 15 feet away.
His shot didn’t have much arc, but it was dead on.
It went in.
“I saw a chance,” Gasby said, of his game-winning field goal. “I’ve made that shot numerous amount of times, and I knew I could make it.”
Gasby’s off-balance jumper put Urban Prep-Englewood ahead 56-55.
“It was so amazing (to see that),” Davis said, of Gasby’s clutch bucket. “He’s a leader. He’s one of the best on the team. … That’s my brother. I love that man.”
Phillips, who finished with seven points and three steals, added: “He missed a couple free throws, but I told him, ‘It’s going to come down (to the wire) and it’s going to be you. I just did enough that we stayed in it, and he finished it off.’”
Gasby’s ability to keep his head up after missing four straight free throws and then drain the game-winner was a dagger to Julian, but Jaguars coach Troy Caldwell was impressed by Gasby’s mental toughness given what had happened at the end of the fourth.
It takes “a lot of heart to take that shot,” Julian coach Troy Caldwell said. “As a coach, you don’t want to see those go in, but as a fan you congratulate somebody like that.”
The drama didn’t end with Gasby’s game-winner, however.
Johnson attacked the paint on the next possession and absorbed contact, but he couldn’t get his close-range shot to fall. Urban Prep-Englewood (11-7, 6-2 White-South) and Julian combined to commit four-straight turnovers after that.
The crazy sequence was capped off by a crucial steal by Davis, who ripped the ball away from a Julian player right under the Urban Prep-Englewood basket.
“I was denying the ball, but then I saw them go back door,” Davis said, describing the Jaguars’ out-of-bounds play that preceded his steal. “Then I stepped over because I just couldn’t have any let downs. I stuck my hand in there, and thank God the ball was right in my hand. I ripped it away.”
Davis (seven points, 10 rebounds, three steals) passed the ball to Gasby (13 points, 16 rebounds), who was fouled. He made one of his two free throws.
Julian still had 6.8 seconds remaining and a chance to tie or win, but the Jaguars threw their inbound pass away.
That sealed the win for Urban Prep-Englewood.
“We left it all on the line,” an exhausted Davis said.
“We just wanted this win so much,” Phillips added.
Julian played with a ton of energy all game long. It fought back from an 11-point deficit, but the Jaguars’ 22 turnovers and 12 missed free throws doomed them, especially those late in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“We just made too many mistakes down the stretch,” Julian coach Troy Caldwell said. “You can’t win games turning over the basketball, missing free throws, missing lay-ups down the stretch. … But I’m proud of the way the guys fought.”
Julian is now two games behind in the White-South, which is essentially a two-team race between Urban Prep-Englewood and Perspectives-Calumet with two conference games remaining.
The Lions and Warriors have 6-2 records. They are scheduled to play at Perspectives-Calumet (13-6, 6-2) on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
Both squads are without talented guards. Perspectives-Calumet senior LaShaun Gist Jr. recently broke his collarbone. Davonte Williams injured his knee against Harlan on Jan. 14.
Although Urban Prep-Englewood will likely be without Williams next week, Davis believes his team will prevail.
“We’re winning it. I’m very confident,” he said. “We’re not going to let our coach (Fred Cleveland) down. We’re just going to stay humble and keep bringing wins to the Lion Den.”
*** Urban Prep-Englewood junior center Jace Lee finished with a team-high 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Sophomore guard Fred Cleveland II had seven points. Junior guard Donald Taylor provided the Lions with valuable minutes off of the bench. He finished with four points and two rebounds.
“Everybody had to step up today,” Phillips said. “That’s what happened.”
*** Julian mounted a comeback in the third quarter behind senior guard Ishmael Muhammad’s three 3-pointers. Muhammad finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four steals.
*** Julian senior guard Antwon Walker scored seven points.