Lovejoy forward Marion Reid, left, attempts to guard a Drew player during the first half of the Wildcats’ 70-66 win in the Southside Christmas Classic on Friday evening. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
RIVERDALE - When the shot left Marion Currington’s hand, the senior guard had a good feeling.
And once the 3-pointer went through the nets, everyone in a Lovejoy uniform felt a little relief. Currington drilled a 3-pointer from the left side of the court to give Lovejoy its first lead late in the fourth quarter.
With some more clutch shooting from the free-throw line, the Wildcats escaped with a 70-66 win over Drew in the Southside Christmas Classic on Friday evening.
“Every time I’m open, coach just gives me the green light,” Currington said. “The shot felt good coming out of my hand. I felt like it was going in. If I didn’t make that shot, we lose the game. I saw the way the ball was moving through the air, so I knew it was going in.”
Currington’s shot came with 2:09 remaining in the closely contested game to give the Wildcats a 62-61 lead.
Following the shot, Drew coach Jarrod Davis was hit with a technical foul, and Wildcats guard DeAndre Mathis made both free throws the lead was increased to 64-61 with 1:59 remaining.
With only nine second elapsed from the game clock, Davis was hit with another technical, which carried an automatic ejection.
Mathis made one of two free throws as Lovejoy led 65-61 with 1:50 remaining.
“We let them back into it,” Davis said. “They were letting us play two different types of games out there. I was just voicing my opinion.”
Following a Mathis turnover, Drew made a jumper to pull to 65-63 with 1:05 remaining. Lovejoy would make two of four free throws on its next two possessions to increase the lead to 67-63 with 46 seconds remaining.
But, the Titans still had a chance as Drew guard Lester Knauls made a three-point play with 29 seconds remaining and the Titans trailing 67-66. Lovejoy guard Darius Bridges made a free throw for a 68-66 lead with 15 seconds remaining. A desperation 3-pointer by Drew fell short.
Mathis would close the game with two free throws to finish with a game-high 20 points.
“When Marion took that three, I was praying that it went in,” Mathis said. “It was really big for us.”
Currington and Mathis missed Thursday’s game, a loss to Northeast-Macon for personal reasons. They said they had to play well in Lovejoy game as a makeup.
“We felt we let our team down in the last game,” Mathis said. “I wanted to have a big game to prove a point.”
This was the second straight tournament for Lovejoy, which played in the U-Save-It Tournament in Albany on Saturday and Monday prior to the tournament at Drew.
The week leading up to the tournament in Albany, Lovejoy didn’t practice because of final exams.
“It sort of threw us for a loop not practicing, but we had to make sure the guys got their studying,” Lovejoy coach Rick Francis said. “We needed that shot from Marion. We made too many mistakes and turnovers in the game. We have to play smarter basketball.”