NMMI Sports Press
All season long, the Bronco basketball team (9-18, 1-13) has had a hard time playing a full game. And Monday was no exception, as NMMI gave up a 19-point halftime lead to escape with a 77-75 victory over Clarendon, earning the Institute its first WJCAC victory of the season.
It was a hard-fought victory — there’s no doubt the Broncos never quit — but the victory came down to a no-time-left rebound and bucket by NMMI leading scorer Nehemiah Mabson that caused Cahoon Armory to explode in celebration.
“I’m just proud of them for sticking with it,” said coach Ralph Davis. “It was good for Nemo. Mabson hit that shot, but the bigger thing of it was he went for the rebound. We’ve been preaching that the whole year. That comes from (former head) coach (Sean) Schooley. You’ve got to rebound the basketball. And he went for the rebound, found the shot opportunity and there we go.”
Mabson made the first field goal of the game, and by the time halftime rolled around, the raucous gym was looking at a 45-26 Bronco edge. The home team was hitting .484 from the field, .438 from the outside and .800 from the free-throw line.
Then the second half started.
The Broncos only scored four points — all by Mabson — in the first 5:30 of the second half. With 11:10 remaining in the game, the Bulldogs (14-14, 2-12) took their first lead of the game, 54-53. Credit NMMI, the lead held for less than 20 seconds, as Mabson tied it going 1-for-2 from the line. But that scenario played out twice more, with Claredon going up 56-55 at 10:25 and 65-64 at 5:17.
The Institute actually went up by as much as five on back-to-back 3-pointers by Chancellor Ellis with less than five minutes remaining, but the ’Dogs never gave up, tying the game at 75-all on two free throws with 31 seconds left.
“We knew they were capable of scoring,” Davis said. “We didn’t expect to blow them out. We thought it would be in the 10s or eights or something like that. I’m just proud the way these guys responded. It’s been a long season and these guys come to work every day. Normally, we’d lose in games like this. We’d lose the lead. We’d battle. We’d keep it right there within four or five.”
So why can’t they play a full game, coach?
“In the first half we play good defense because we’re right by the bench, so the bench is there,” Davis said. “The bench is talking to them. My staff is talking to them. The second half it’s five guys by themselves. So if they’re not talking, they’re not vocal, they’re kind of out there on an island. That’s part of the reason for our second-half meltdowns, if you will. Our guys aren’t talking and just not being vocal out there.”
But however the victory happened, Davis knows it will have a positive effect on the final two games of the season.
“Without a question it’s going to help,” he said. “I won’t say we would have thrown in the towel if we would have lost this game. But it would have been difficult these last two. It would have been difficult.”
Now they’ve got momentum on their side.
“We knew we would get one,” the coach said. “We knew it was coming one of these three games. We knew we’d get one, now the goal is to get No. 2 and hopefully No. 3 before the year’s out.”
Mabson not only led the Broncos in scoring with 22 points, but picked up a double-double with 10 rebounds. Breck had 20 points; Ellis 15; and DeMarco Enoch 12.
James Kirksey led all scorers with 23 points for Clarendon, also picking up 11 rebounds.
But Davis said it wasn’t just scoring that contributed to the long-time-coming victory.
“All 10 guys played and contributed, whether it be a rebound, a loose ball or a shot made, whatever the case might be,” he said. “So I’m just proud of them for sticking with it.”
NMMI will be back on the road Thursday at Howard before closing out the season at home Feb. 25.