Obezags top Cristo Rey for second straight MIAA C basketball crown; Jenkins and Tanz combine for 41 (VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS/INTERVIEWS HERE!)
by Nelson Coffin
After bowing to Cristo Rey Jesuit High twice during the regular season, Key School’s boys basketball team could have been pardoned for panicking after the top-seeded Hornets from Baltimore City overcame a 10-point deficit to lead by five points early in the final period of the MIAA C Conference championship game on Sunday afternoon at Harford Community College.
All the Zags needed for some courage was to look toward the sideline to see unflappable coach Brent Coleman, whose demeanor hardly changed during the long comeback by the Hornets.
If their coach wasn’t becoming unglued, there was no reason for Key’s players to fall apart.
That calming influence probably wasn’t the only reason why the Zags finished the game on a game-clinching 21-10 run to secure a 72-66 victory and earn their second consecutive title in their third straight appearance in the final.
It had to help, though.
“I have to keep my composure,” said Coleman, who inherited a team with eight newcomers after losing eight seniors from the 2016-17 championship club. “As long as I keep my composure, the boys will always notice. So that’s what I do.”
Key junior guard Elijah Jenkins said that Coleman’s approach keeps the Zags (9-9 overall) on an even keel.
“He lets his players play, coaches coach and refs ref,” Jenkins said. “He lets his players make plays. If we get hot-headed, he takes us out of the game.”
Both offenses came out ready to put up points, especially Key’s Marshall Tanz.
The torrid sophomore guard had 12 points in the first quarter alone and added six more by halftime.
“We prepared for him for three days,” lamented Cristo Rey coach Derrick Lifsey, whose team fell to 17-10 after falling for only the second time in 12 tries to a C rival this winter. “We also missed 15 free throws (16 for 31) in a five-point game and we missed 10 layups.”
Tanz said that Coleman told him to be aggressive with the ball.
“He said to keep attacking the basket,” Tanz said. “I didn’t want to go up (to the basket) weak. I had to be ready to get hit (on drives).”
Coleman said that Tanz, Jenkins and sophomore Augie Irving are all “crafty around the basket” and adept at getting to the line.
To buttress his point, Key made 28-of-36 free throws as a team with Jenkins cashing in a whopping 18 times on 25 attempts.
“I’m not the best shooter,” Jenkins admitted. “So, I have to be aggressive with the ball.”
The Hornets were aggressive as well before fading down the stretch.
They took a 51-50 lead late in the third quarter on a layup by sophomore Khari Barrett and expanded it to to 56-51 on a steal-and-finish by junior guard Terry Curry and a jumper from the paint by junior Sterling Holloway early in the final period.
It didn’t take long for the Zags to answer. They did so on a pair of free throws and a bank shot by Jenkins and a drive by Irving to inch ahead, 57-56.
A free throw by Curry knotted the score for the final time until Key junior Mark Fusco’s clutch three-pointer from the top of the key gave the defending champs a 60-57 advantage with just over three minutes remaining in regulation.
The Hornets would get no closer than two points the rest of the way, and fell behind by six points when Jenkins — who else? — converted three straight from the stripe with under two minutes left.
“I think that their change of speed really hurt us,” Lifsey said. “It was their ability to push the ball…..and we got away from what we do. Credit to Key. They came ready to play. We came a long way this season and we still have a long way to go.”
Jenkins said, despite being swept this season by Cristo Rey, that the matchup was a good one for the Zags.
“They’re quick, but they don’t have much size — like us,” he said. “We owed them one.”
MIAA C CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
AT HARFORD COMMUNITY COLLEGE
KEY SCHOOL 72, CRISTO REY JESUIT 66
KEY SCHOOL 20 19 12 21 — 72
CRISTO REY 18 17 19 12 — 66
KEY SCHOOL: Augie Irving 15, Elijah Jenkins 22, Nick June 2, Marshall Tanz 19, Mark Fusco 7, Josh Walker 6, Jackson Smith 1. TOTALS: 21 28-46 72.
CRISTO REY: Terry Curry 19, Sterling Holliday 7, Darrin Yancey 8, Khari Barrett 8, Alex Ferrer 8, Ahmaud Jones 13, Julius Galloway 2, Tyshaun Smith 1. TOTALS: 24 16-31 66.