By Bonta Hill
Down seven points with 5:13 left in the game, it seemed Marshall High School’s boys basketball team was exhausted and out of gas in the Academic Athletic Association semifinals against Lincoln.
But the Phoenix went on a 14-0 run over the next four minutes to pull ahead in a 52-47 win on Wednesday at Kezar Pavilion, upsetting the AAA’s best team in the regular season.
Senior center Mark Alexander was the catalyst once again for Marshall (15-12), leading the Phoenix with 16 points, 22 rebounds and seven blocks.
“What Mark did today was unbelievable, just phenomenal,” said Marshall head coach Dezebee Miles. “But that’s what he’s been doing for us all year. We’re never out of it with him and we depend on him to do what he does for us.”
Sophomore forward Preston Demming contributed 13 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, and Marshall will be aiming to win its first AAA championship in school history.
“It got grim there for a minute in [the fourth quarter], but one thing I knew was that my guys wouldn’t stop fighting until the game was totally over with,” Miles said. “I knew if we could get two stops and two baskets, we’d be right back in the game.”
Marshall led through most of the contest until Lincoln forward Douglas Snoddy made a free throw that gave the Mustangs a 31-30 lead with 2:35 left in the third quarter.
Lincoln (20-13) then got back-to-back 3-pointers from guards Mitchell Lee and Chris Young, part of a 11-2 run to give the Mustangs a 37-32 lead.
One area that led to Lincoln’s demise was the free-throw line. The Mustangs shot 9-for-26 from the charity stripe and had six turnovers in the final quarter.
“We weren’t strong with the ball and we didn’t show enough patience [offensively], especially when we got the lead,” said Lincoln head coach Matt Jackson. “Going 9-for-26 from the line did not help. We’ve been around a 70 percent free-throw shooting team.”
After a layup from Snoddy gave Lincoln its largest lead of the game at 44-37, Marshall’s comeback began.
After consecutive baskets cut the lead to 44-40, a block from Alexander started a Marshall fast break, with Demming finishing a layup.
Alexander was the steady force for the Phoenix, who have had only seven players on their roster for most of the season. While altering several Lincoln shots and grabbing rebound after rebound, the 6-foot-6 center was just thankful for the opportunity to play in Friday’s championship.
“It feels great to move on to the championship as a senior,” Alexander said. “I’ve never been to the championship and it feels great to do it with this team.”
Mark Alexander – 16
Preston Demming – 13
Mizelle Parker – 11
Aumen Holliday – 7
Jason Smith – 5
Ares Brown – 15
Chris Young – 7
Nick Young – 7
Mitchell Lee – 6
Douglas Snoddy – 5