Jeff Hurndon Photography
Union Grove guard Rod Dunlap tries to shoot over two Drew defenders during the Titans' Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A win on Friday.
McDONOUGH — The next time Drew’s Brandon Clyde steps out on the court to play a basketball game, he may want to petition Union Grove’s student section to tag along.
Behind Clyde’s clutch second-half performance and an uptick in defensive intensity, Drew rallied from behind a nine-point deficit to defeat Union Grove 60-50 Friday in a Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A contest.
Clyde scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, despite a raucous group of Union Grove students who booed him every time he touched the ball. Seemingly feeding off the heckling, his momentum swinging dunk off an alley-oop early in the third quarter silenced the crowd and seemed to pump new life into the Titans.
Drew coach Jarrod Davis praised Clyde, who along with fellow guard David White and his team-leading 16 points, helped push the Titans to their fourth straight win in an hostile environment.
“Brandon and David took it upon themselves to help make sure this program stays where it’s at,” Davis said. “They are the only two voices on this team that can talk about the journey to get to the playoffs. They stepped up tonight.”
Clyde and White can talk about it because they are the only players left from last season’s Class AAA state runner-up squad that finished 28-5 and lost to Columbia in the championship game.
And though the 2012-13 squad may seem to be just a shadow of last season’s bunch, Davis said he’s proud of the way his team is figuring out how to finish off opponents.
“We’re a young group learning how to fight off the chase,” Davis said. “Young kids learning how to win.”
It didn’t start well for Drew in the first half. After the Titans traded punches with Union Grove in the first quarter, the Wolverines extended a 13-12 lead behind the early hot hand of point guard Sean Williams. Williams added to his seven first quarter points by burying a three pointer and two long jumpers within a two minute span in the second quarter to put Union Grove up 26-20 with 4:28 left in the second half.
Williams scored 11 of his team high 16 points in the first half and Caleb Ham drained two free throws and a bucket on consecutive trips down the court to give Union Grove a 34-25 halftime lead.
Davis said he felt fortunate that the deficit wasn’t larger, given his disappointment with the Titans’ first half execution.
“We were lucky to only be down by nine because this thing could’ve got away from us pretty fast,” Davis said. “We weren’t executing very well and we didn’t box out good at all tonight.”
But Drew made up for it on defense in the second quarter as the Titans settled into a 2-3 pressure zone defense, steadily sending traps toward Williams and forcing the Wolverines into multiple bad decisions.
Not only did Union Grove grow cold from the field — the Wolverines were held to just five field goals in the second half, all in the fourth quarter — but the Titans pressured Union Grove into 16 in the final two quarters of play alone.
Williams, who started off hot from the field in the first half could only muster one field goal and a pair of free throws the rest of the way. Usually a steady hand for Union Grove at the point position, he had his hand in four of the Wolverines six turnovers in their first six possessions in the third quarter.
Davis said disrupting Williams’ comfort zone was priority No. 1 for Drew in the second half.
“Sean is an exceptional young man and player,” he said. “But at the half, what we talked about was that it wasn’t so much what Union Grove was doing, but we weren’t doing. We wanted to cut off his lanes and beat him to the corners and spots where he likes to shoot, and our guys executed it well.
The pressure helped Drew to a 13-3 run capped off by Malik Taylor’s three pointer at the third quarter buzzer, which gave the Titans a 40-37 lead — its first of the game.
Drew raised its record 11-8 overall but are now 10-2 in the region, sitting in a tie for first with Mount Zion with just five games remaining.
Union Grove fell to 12-10 and 5-7 in the region with the loss. Drew will travel to North Clayton Saturday, while Union Grove is off until it plays at Mundy’s Mill Tuesday.