Josh Horford knew he would have to make an impact at some point for the Grand Ledge boys hoops team to escape Sexton with a win on Tuesday night.
And after early foul trouble meant a scoreless first half for the 6-foot-5 senior, he set out to make sure the final 16 minutes wasn’t the same tale.
Horford capped his strong second-half performance with a game-winning layup with less than six seconds remaining to lift the Comets past the Big Reds, 60-58, in a CAAC Blue showdown.
“My teammates just let me know that they needed me,” said Horford, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half. “I had to step up, play a little smarter. …Those fouls got to me. I wasn’t getting buckets easily, nothing was falling, but my teammates kept encouraging me.”
Here's Horford's potential game-winning bucket. pic.twitter.com/leEdCtiabq— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) January 20, 2016
The shots started falling for Horford, who also had four rebounds, in the third quarter when his back-to-back layups fueled a 9-0 run for Grand Ledge to close the quarter, helping the Comets to a seven-point lead to start the fourth. The senior picked up where he left off in the final quarter by scoring two quick buckets to help put his team up by eight.
Senior guard Malek Adams scored nine of his 18 points in the second half and assisted on the Horford game-winner.
“Josh is our motor,” said Grand Ledge coach Scott Lewis, whose team has won six of its last seven games. “Everybody focuses on Malek, and Malek is a heck of a ball player, but if Josh plays well then our team plays well.
“We put the ball in those two guys’ hands and we came out here and got a W.”
The victory almost slipped away from the Comets in the final minutes of the contest thanks to Sexton sophomore Zhervonte Smith, who scored a team-high 15 points. With his team trailing, 57-50, with less than two minutes remaining, Smith scored eight straight points for the Big Reds (2-9, 0-6) to tie the game at 58.
Sexton has now lost eight games this season by single-digits – four games by five points or less. Smith said the tight losses have been frustrating for the inexperienced Big Reds, but also added that the team understands it’s going through a learning process.
“You can’t lose every game like this, so if you keep the same mindset … the Basketball Gods are eventually going to give you one,” Smith said. “We’re just waiting for our turn. Right now, they (Basketball Gods) don’t want us to get one.
“We’re just trying to keep our mind focused and have mental toughness. We don’t want to start getting down at this time because it’s crunch time, the second half of the season. I know we’re a young team and all, but we’re trying to get ready for the end of this season and the start of next season.”
Grand Ledge’s Jordan Goebel scored 12 of his 18 points in the first half and sophomore guard Luke Smith scored nine points on the night.
Sexton sophomore Karl Brooks added 14 points and senior Kiston Branson scored nine.
Contact James L. Edwards III at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.