By Jeremy Balan
Despite foul trouble for key starters, Leadership High School defeated Waldorf School 55-46 to win their first Bay Counties League Central title on Saturday at Kezar Pavilion.
“[The win] means a lot for our program and our alumni,” Leadership Head Coach George Adkins said. “They paved the roads. We’ve gone through a lot.”
Leadership (13-12) standout senior point guard Robert Chiu missed most of the second and third quarters when he ran into early foul trouble and sophomore forward Dontaz Combs fouled out with 3 minutes remaining in the game.
Both scored in double-figures, despite missing considerable time.
Adkins put Chiu back into the game with four fouls late in the third quarter, when Waldorf cut the lead to 33-29.
“Once [Chiu] got into foul trouble, the guys panicked,” Adkins said. “I gambled and took a chance [putting him back in], but I felt the momentum was shifting.”
With Chiu on the floor, Leadership took a 43-36 lead into the fourth quarter and never let the Wolverines within striking range.
“I got off to a horrible start with the four fouls,” Chiu said. “But once I got back in, I didn’t hold anything back.”
While Chiu was on the bench, sophomore guard Fancisco Chacon carried the offensive load for the Griffins, with 14 first-half points.
Riding Chacon’s hot hand, Leadership took a 27-20 lead into the half.
“I was just feeling it,” Chacon said. “I’m going to go out there and work harder than everyone else.”
Leadership capitalized on an uncharacteristically bad shooting night from the top-seeded Wolverines (16-7), which shot 29 percent from the floor and 47 percent from the free throw line.
“Overall, we executed the game plan, but couldn’t finish around the basket,” Waldorf Head Coach Zeke Lopez said. “It was amazing we were even in it.”
Junior guard Jamarea Biggins led Waldorf offensively, finishing with 12 total points, leading the third-quarter Wolverine charge with nine points in the frame.
Biggins and the other Wolverines, however, struggled consistently throughout.
“Nerves were an issue for all our guys,” Lopez said. “We showed our inexperience and were a little intimidated. We’re still really young. The big thing for us is learning to handle the pressure of big games.”
Even with the victory, Adkins was disappointed with the Griffins sometimes-sloppy play. Leadership turned the ball over 20 times in the game, compared to Waldorf’s 10.
“I’m disappointed in our performance,” Adkins said. “I just wasn’t happy with the lack of intelligent plays.”
Leadership freshman forward Rodney McKinney also had a solid game for the Griffins. He finished with 11 points, including six key points in the fourth quarter, to go along with a consistent effort on the offensive boards, providing Leadership with multiple second-chance opportunities.
“He’s really stepped up at the right time,” Adkins said. “He got the game ball tonight.”