For a player who regularly eclipses double figures scoring, seven points through three quarters is a relatively quiet night in the office for Plano West junior Soso Jamabo.
The buckets the 6-foot-4 forward converted in the fourth quarter were as loud as it gets.
Not only were they instrumental in nearly blowing the roof off the Wolves’ gymnasium, Jamabo’s late heroics also proved to be the deciding factor in another fourth-quarter comeback by the West boys basketball team (5-0 in District 10-5A), this time to upend Allen (3-2), 71-68.
“We just responded and played through some adversity,” said Anthony Morgan, West head coach. “… We knew we had plenty of time, but just had to get back to what we were doing.”
That would be making impact plays in bunches and seizing momentum along the way. Jamabo (13 points) had a hand in both.
Initially exiting the game in the third quarter with an ankle injury, Jamabo returned in the fourth and sunk a 3-pointer from the wing that tied the game at 63-63 with 2:30 to play.
One possession later, Jamabo canned a deafening trey in the corner that gave the Wolves a 66-63 lead with 1:30 to go.
“I hurt my ankle earlier and wanted to get back in the game to make an impact,” Jamabo said. “The opportunity came and once I got that screen, I let it go. Once it leaves my hands, I always think it’s going in.
“… The crowd got into it, we got into it and that kind of iced the game right there.”
“[Jamabo] was the real deal tonight. Soso had a great game,” Morgan said.
The two 3-pointers finally broke the back of a feisty Eagles squad, who even received a late triple by junior Nick Rutherford (25 points, four assists) to pull within one possession at 71-68.
Getting one last crack at the tie went awry for Allen, however, as Jamabo fittingly intercepted an inbounds pass to preserve the win.
For a while, that victory seemed in doubt after the Eagles erased a 13-point deficit with a 20-9 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters for a 57-56 lead.
Allen made West sweat out the bulk of the second half thanks to an attack-minded approach that saw the Eagles pillage the Wolves at the rim.
Rutherford, plus seniors Myron Fisher (18 points, six rebounds) and Jamuni McNeace (10 points, four boards) spearheaded the aggressive initiative, as Allen ran a glorified layup line on the Wolves’ defense.
“We talked at halftime and said the refs were going to let us play tonight,” said Jeff McCullough, Allen head coach. “We had to be a little bit tougher and a little bit stronger. We were more aggressive in the second half, but just ran out of guys and time.”
That would be referring to senior C.J. Winzer and McNeace, who both fouled out in the loss.
Winzer racked up four fouls in the first half, falling prey to West’s own attack-heavy approach. In particular, Avery Johnson Jr. (21 points, five rebounds) feasted on the Eagles in transition with 13 points in the second quarter alone.
He only had six total in the second half and all from the free-throw line, but two crucial makes late in the fourth quarter helped complement Jamabo’s onslaught.
And for the second consecutive Friday night, the Wolves survived a thriller that went down to the wire.
“It prepares you for the playoffs because when you get there, there are going to be plenty of games like this,” Jamabo said. “We don’t always like going down to the wire like this, but you have opportunities like this, you want to take full advantage of it.”
Food for thought
Mitchell’s return up in the air
One week ago, Morgan seemed confident in the prospects of junior Mickey Mitchell returning from injury (back) this week.
Two games later, the Ohio State commit remains sidelined.
“[Mitchell] is really hurting,” Morgan said. “It’s just day by day and it’s killing him because he really wants to come out and help us. I feel for him because this is his love and for him to not be healthy is tough on him.”
Morgan added that they examined Mitchell during practice and don’t plan on rushing him back, given the years of basketball he still has ahead of him.
Whether or not that time span will include anymore games with the Wolves this season remains to be seen, but Morgan isn’t ruling Mitchell out for the season and in fact, feels like he’ll be back with the team before too long.
“I do (think he’ll play again this year),” Morgan said. “We’ve got five games left, or it could be in the playoffs, but we’ll get him back.”
The best kind of unintentional
Rutherford showcased his range against the Wolves tonight, canning three 3-pointers. One in particular was one of the more impressive shots I’ve seen this season, and it was totally by accident.
With 1:40 to play in the third quarter, Rutherford threw a lob from the top of the key to McNeace. The big man was never able to corral the ball, but the pass was right in line with the basket and wound up swishing through for a 3-pointer and cut West’s lead to 54-49.
Starters and finishers
Depth didn’t exactly play a huge role in the outcome of Friday’s game. West received just two points off its bench – a bucket by junior McCann Utu – and the Eagles managed only a putback by senior Blake Williams as their lone bench points.
In all, the starters from both teams combined for 135 of the game’s 139 points.
Plano West defeats Allen, 71-68
Johnson Jr. 21, Hogg 18, Jamabo 13, Anderson 13, Giles 4, Utu 2
Rutherford 25, Fisher 18, McNeace 10, Winzer 7, Carter 6, Williams 2
Rebounds: Allen 20 (Fisher 6), West 19 (Hogg, Johnson Jr. 5)
Assists: West 9 (Hogg, Anderson 3), Allen 9 (Rutherford 4)