Friday, Jan. 14, 2011
By Patrick Z. McGavin
Kiernan Woods has seen it all before. Willie Connor was getting his first glimpse.
It is hard to get a proper feel of the West Side showdown of Crane and Marshall until the ball tips. A junior transfer from Hope Academy, Connor made an excellent first impression.
Connor scored 18 points and Woods scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the host No. 15 Cougars used a huge second quarter burst to seize control and hold off a furious Marshall rally in the 57-53 victory Thursday.
Everybody was telling me, We havent played Marshall. Wait until that game, Connor said. He drilled back-to-back three-pointers and scored eight points during the Cougars 14-0 second-quarter run that propelled Crane (11-2, 5-1 Red-West) to a 24-11 advantage.
Woods scored 14 of his game-high total in the first half. I talked with Kiernan and he told me that he was going to penetrate to the basket and watch for the kick out pass, and thats exactly what I did, he said.
The Commandos (8-6, 3-2), shut out the opening 3:53 of the second quarter, responded with their own 8-0 burst that helped pull them within 29-23 at the break.
Connors final basket, a three-pointer from the right wing, again pushed the Cougars advantage to double digits, 36-25, early in the third quarter. Marshall refused to yield. They answered with a 13-4 burst to pull within two point at 40-38.
Crane senior guard Aaron Jackson, who was benched by coach Tim Anderson the previous three games due to disciplinary reasons, hit a floater at the buzzer to restore the Cougars advantage to four. Jackson would finish with 11 points.
Hurt by foul trouble much of the game, Woods dominated the fourth quarter. He repeatedly used his size and quickness to attack the basket in scoring eight points in the decisive quarter. They switched from a triangle and two to a man to man, and that opened up some possibilities of me to drive to the hole, Woods said.
The Cougars survived despite surrendering 29 turnovers and shooting just 5-14 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. The turnovers and missed free throws enabled the Commandos to turn a late seven-point deficit into a one possession game in the final minute.
Behind the superb all-around play of senior guard Keifer Sykes (17 points), the Commandos scored five straight points to pull within 55-53 with 30.2 seconds remaining. After Kory Billups split two free throws for a three-point lead, Marshall missed a potential game-tying three-pointer. Crane harassed Marshall into 4 of 26 shooting on three-point attempts.
Shamon Mock added 11 points and Marlon Sykes contributed nine points for the Commandos.