McLemore shoots NFC boys past Maclay

McLemore shoots NFC boys past Maclay


McLemore shoots NFC boys past Maclay


On a night when he was honored for scoring 1,000 points in his North Florida Christian career, Eagles guard Zach McLemore began a fast-paced quest for the next 1,000.

The versatile NFC senior found his stroke in the first quarter and blistered the Maclay defense in the second. McLemore scored 19 of his game-high 27 points in the first half as the Eagles routed the Marauders, 66-51, Friday night with the help of a 22-0 run in the second quarter.

“Bad recognition; we talked about McLemore coming into the ball game,” Maclay coach Mike McGrotha said. “I don’t think my kids believed he was as good as he is. He’s one of the best players in the city.”

Maclay held a first-quarter lead at 15-11, playing what McGrotha called its best opening quarter of the year. NFC (9-8) had missed a few shots, while the Marauders were moving the ball well and made six field goals, including two 3-pointers.

And then in an eight-minute span, everything unraveled and the script flipped entirely. Walter Moore connected on a 3-pointer for Maclay’s only points of the second quarter and McLemore found holes in the lane and on the perimeter, knocking down three 3s.

“It’s a team sport and if you look at the second quarter, our whole team was getting involved, being patient,” McLemore said. “That opens up good looks for everybody. We started hitting some shots, hit some 3s, momentum starts swinging our way and we get into it. Defensive pressure picks up from there.”

Up 34-18 at the break, NFC built the lead to 24 points early in the fourth quarter. Melvin Ray made a living at the free-throw line, knocking down 10 of 12 attempts to accumulate 14 points while securing 10 rebounds. And Griffith Rutherford knocked down three second-half 3-pointers to notch 11 points.

“We’re not as strong of a team when just Zach and Mel are scoring,” said Eagles coach Brad Bristol, whose team knocked down 22 of 29 free throws. “When other guys chip in, that’s when we’re strong. When Mel attacks the glass, that’s when we’re strong. Tonight, we moved and that really opened up the inside and outside, and guys were knocking down shots.”

Justin Ghazvini led the Marauders with 16 points, while Kyle McWilliams scored 14 points and added eight rebounds, but Maclay (15 for 41 FGs, 6 for 21 on 3s) knows it must change what it did in the second quarter in order to have a chance a week from now when NFC will head north on Meridian Road to continue the rivalry.

“We had bad shot selection and we lost awareness of where McLemore was,” McGrotha said. “That was the ball game right there. We’ll come back to it. This was the first battle, and there will be several more I’m sure.”

McLemore praised McGrotha’s coaching and knowledge of the game, but also said his team was well-prepared for the wrinkles thrown at them. And the Eagles’ sharpshooter doesn’t think much will change next time.

“They can try,” McLemore said. “They can try, but we’ll be ready for them.”


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