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Posted On: 02/23/18 11:12 PM
Okemos High School and East Lansing High School are separated by just a 5.5 mile drive up the road. But this isn’t the first time the two schools matched up this season. East Lansing was defeated by Okemos 60-55 earlier in the season. Since that game, East Lansing has been on a seven game winning streak. Both teams are 11-2 in CAAC blue play and are competing for a conference title. East Lansing was short handed on the sideline in this matchup as they were without their legendary Head Coach, Steve Finamore in this matchup. Finamore got into an off court incident with a player’s parent giving him a suspension with a length that is still to be determined. Both teams have senior studs with East Lansing’s Brandon Johns (Michigan) and Malik Jones (Aquinas) and Okemos’ uncommitted stud, Jordan Henry. Both teams also have underclassmen who play big roles with East Lansing’s freshman guard, Marcus Wourman Jr. and Okemos’ sophomore guard, Noah Pruitt. Wourman played 16U with the Lansing Prospectors this summer as a 14 year old while Pruitt played 16U for ENB as a 15 year old. This game was bound to be a classic.
The first bucket of the game was a deep three from Henry which was quickly answered by a jab ‘n drive by East Lansing’s senior, Jordan McAbee. A couple more buckets later gave Okemos an 8-2 lead in the opening 80 seconds.
Gerald Sambaer III then added to his point total with a 4-point play out of an East Lansing timeout. The home team’s student section was ecstatic. Okemos’ lead was extended to double digits but multiple triples and multiple Johns drives cut the deficit in half. Okemos junior guard, Evan Thomas did a strong job in the opening quarter holding Johns to only two field goals. After eight minutes of basketball, Okemos held a 20-14 advantage over East Lansing.
The first bucket of the second quarter came from McAbee. He was very efficient scoring down low. After a flashy finish from Wourman and a Johns finish the game was tied for the first time since the jump. A Johns and-1 then gave East Lansing their first lead of the game which was quickly relinquished after a Fabian Leone triple for Okemos. The game was getting chippy. Both teams traded buckets in the final minute of the half. At the break, the contest was all knotted up at 27 a piece. East Lansing was led by Johns with 10 points and McAbee with 6 points. The home team was led by Pruitt and Sambaer III with 9 points each.
East Lansing came out the gate with an assist and a bucket from Johns followed by a bucket from senior wing, Noah Schon. But whatever East Lansing did, Okemos had an answer. Back to back buckets from East Lansing’s 6’7 senior big, Ben Zeka brought the East Lansing lead back to four and forced an Okemos timeout. Out of the timeout, a Pruitt triple brought the Okemos student section back to life. Later, an and-1 from #34(Blood jersey) Jordan Henry gave Okemos back the lead. As the third quarter buzzer sounded, Thomas’ layup bounded around the rim and fell in giving Okemos a 43-40 advantage with a quarter remaining.
A quick Johns layup was quickly answered by a triple from Henry singled the start of the final quarter. This maximum capacity gym got what they paid for with the measly admission fee of $5. As the Okemos lead was extended to six, East Lansing answered back with a Johns free throw and McAbee triple. Okemos did a great job on the defensive end, containing Johns and forcing him to earn his points from the charity stripped where he struggled tonight. Next, a pair of Sambaer III free throws and an Okemos transition layup extended the lead to six points. A Johns slam kept his team in the contest but foul trouble from East Lansing and strong free throw shooting from Okemos continued to extend the Okemos lead. Johns continued to fight for East Lansing brining the deficit to a single possessions in the final 90 seconds. After a pair of Okemos free throw misses, East Lansing’s senior sniper, Jack Morse drove to the basket and got got fouled in the action. Morse hit both and brought the deficit down to a single point. But an East Lansing foul put Henry to the line where he knocked both down. After Johns splitting from the stripe, ANOTHER East Lansing foul put Henry to the line again where he also split from the line. Back to back free throws from Thomas gave Okemos a five point lead with 40 second remaining. Johns got to the line and missed both but Henry did the same on the other end. Johns traveled to the line AGAIN where he missed both again. Fans started to head for the exit as this game looked over. Okemos traveled to the line a couple of more times before the final buzzer. When the buzzer sounded, Okemos held a 64-56 advantage, and of course the court was stormed. Evan Thomas led Okemos with 17 points, Jordan Henry added 16 points, and Gerald Sambaer III and Noah Pruitt each added 11 points. For East Lansing, Brandon Johns scored 25 points and Justin McAbee contributed 11 points. Despite losing Henry and Sambaer III next year, they will be the favorites to repeat the CAAC Blue with those being two of three seniors. Also, Pruitt has an incredibly high ceiling of potential.