By Brian Paglia
Dennis Johnson hit a mid-range jump shot with 7.5 seconds left, and Morrow missed two shots in the closing seconds to give No. 6-ranked North Clayton a 65-64 win over the Mustangs in a Region 4-AAAA game Tuesday at home.
With nine seconds left, North Clayton junior Marcus Hunt drove to the basket for the potential game-winner, but missed. Johnson got the rebound and delivered the quick shot to give the Eagles (3-1, 3-1) their second consecutive game won on the final possession.
"I was just focusing in," said Johnson, who had 14 points. "Marcus put up a good shot, Michael (Johnson) boxed out to give me some space and the ball came right to me."
Hunt led North Clayton with 20 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Michael Johnson scored 10 of his 16 points in the second half, and grabbed nine rebounds. Lexus Hill added 10.
Johnson capped an 11-0 run into the fourth quarter with a tough, short jump-shot that put North Clayton up 51-40. But Morrow (4-2, 1-2) slowly whittled the Eagles' lead down to nothing when James Parsons (24 points) made a reverse lay-up to put Morrow ahead 62-61 with 50 seconds left in the game.
After Johnson made two free-throws to put North Clayton back ahead, Morrow senior Ty'Ron Davis grabbed an offensive rebound and floated a quick shot to put Morrow up 64-63.
North Clayton coach Martisse Troup called a timeout with 21.2 seconds left and another dramatic finish assured. The Eagles needed a last-second lay-up Saturday to escape with a win against Riverdale.
"We've got to learn to close out games," Troup said. "Fatigue hurt us. Turnovers hurt us. Once we become a disciplined ballclub, we'll start learning how to close out these kind of games."
Johnson, who has started the past three games in place of injured starting point guard Marcus Palmer, made sure North Clayton closed out Tuesday with a win. Troup said he intended to bring Johnson off the bench early this season as he worked back into basketball shape after playing on North Clayton's playoff football team as the starting quarterback.
Palmer's injury changed plans, but Johnson has delivered. In addition to his 14 points, Johnson had limited turnovers and whipped passes into the post for several assists.
"I had no pressure," Johnson said. "I knew they would focus on Hunt, so I just tried to play North Clayton basketball."
Morrow got 16 points and six rebounds from sophomore center Dante Ottley. Jordan Faciane added 11 points.
North Clayton girls 53, Morrow 27
The Lady Eagles got out to an early 15-3 lead and never looked back to stay undefeated Tuesday night in a Region 4-AAAA game at home.
Jacksonville State signee Miranda Cantrell led North Clayton (4-0, 4-0) with 15 points and 12 rebounds despite shooting just 24 percent (4-for-17).