BOSTON –- It was a shot that Dorchester coach Johnny Williams admitted was from the East Boston player he was least expecting.
And while it lacked the rock star status of Pat Santos’ 85-foot heave last month, this one was no less crucial for the Jets. With 1.4 seconds to go, junior guard Marcus Shaw dribbled up to the free throw line and sank a 15-footer to give the hosts a thrilling 58-57 victory over the rising Boston City League stalwart Dorchester Bears.
“They all just feel the same,” Shaw said of his game-winning shot, his first since last season. “They feel surreal at first, but then you get used to it. I know it sounds funny because it’s only been two, but they’re the same feeling.”
Indeed it’s not the first time the South Boston transfer has come up with a game-winner in his varsity career – last season with the Knights, he went coast-to-coast for a game-winning layup against Snowden. But with senior forward Will March (14 points, 13 rebounds) holding his own down low, and Santos (16 points) known for his shooting ability, along with several other marksmen for the Jets (7-4), it’s easy to see why he may have been overlooked.
“That was the last person I expected to take that shot,” Williams said with a laugh. “I knew they were looking to Santos, or they were going to look to [March], or their shooter [Dion Knight]. But he [Shaw] hit it, and that’s the game, that’s why you cover it and I coach it.
“Those wins are more gratifying than the ones you win by 30, because they grit it out. I wish we were on the other end of that score, but it is what it is.”
Out of a timeout, with under 10 seconds to go, Shaw started near the right sideline and cut across to the opposite wing. On this particular play that coach Shawn Brown drew up, Shaw is the primary option. But with all three of his options from the wing – cut baseline, cut to the free throw line, or attempt a three-point shot – being denied by the Bears (7-5), Santos held onto the ball up top.
A double-team came to greet Santos, and from there Shaw came back to the right wing, where he corralled the ball and then, in his own words, “it was just freelance”.
“I got creative and created a shot,” he said.
Out of an ensuing Dorchester timeout, with 1.4 seconds left, the Bears inbounded the ball cleanly but were unable to put up a heave before the buzzer sounded.
“It’s a gutsy shot by a gutsy kid,” Brown said. “Marcus is a young man who believes in his offense. The play was drawn up for him coming out of the timeout, but we thought they were going to go man. They came out in zone, kind of surprised us, but Marcus’ instincts just kicked in.
“At that time, I tell him you’ve got to be a player. You can draw up all the X’s and O’s you want, but there comes time in a game where you gotta be a basketball player. And for that moment, Marcus was.”
Said March, "I had faith in him that he was going to hit that shot."
After trailing the whole game –- as much as 12 in the first half – Dorchester finally pulled ahead to take its first lead of the game with 16.3 seconds left, on two free throws by Jeduan Langston (11 points). Four other Bears finished in double-figures in scoring, with Khalil Newson leading the team with 13 followed by Ceejae Agnew-Carter (11 points) and Dakari Wornum (11 points, 19 rebounds, two blocks).
Eastie led 37-26 at the half, but the lead was dwindled to 46-42 after three quarters of play thanks to a sizeable advantage (literally) on the boards. The Bears outrebounded the Jets 13-4 in the third, and 30-8 overall for the second half, with nearly half of those boards coming from Wornum.
Stepping stones for ‘Sticks’: With a long, thin 6-foot-7 frame, it’s easy to see why Wornum is affably nicknamed “Sticks” by his coaches and teammates. It’s also easy to see why he’s being regarded as a hidden gem in the Boston City League, and a “late bloomer” by his own coach.
Wornum came into the game averaging 19 points and 19 rebounds, and tonight he lived up to his billing as a put-back machine. Sparingly getting touches in the Bears’ half-court sets, Wornum got all of his points off offensive rebounds and a free throw. Matching up with Eastie’s March, Wornum played the part of a true post player, spacing himself cleanly around the post area without getting caught in no man’s land, and avoiding over-the-back fouls on rebound battles.
Earlier this month, one coach told ESPN Boston correspondent Chris Bradley, “He’s raw, but has good potential. He needs to go to a Juco or a D2 [college] where they can work with him year-round. He erases a lot of defensive mistakes by tossing shots away from the rim.”
As good as he was tonight, he’s still a work in progress – including around the rim, where he needs to box out better and hold his positioning underneath without getting pushed around. Williams says he’s working with him on the blocks “as much as possible”, with an emphasis on footwork and a lot of jumping rope.
“He likes just grabbing and trying to out-jump someone, out-tough them.,” Williams said. “But he’s working on it, he’s working, and he’s going to get it. We’ve got him using both hands around the rim, as you see. Last year, he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t make a layup.”
March got his points and rebounds, but readily admitted Wornum is "really hard to guard."
"It's the length," March said. "Boxing him out, it was hard because he can reach over your back to grab it."
Injured parties: East Boston remains without two of its key cogs, senior Kenny Ramos and sophomore Rasheed Bell.
Bell suffered a knee injury in the Jets’ loss to Charlestown last month, and is undergoing physical therapy as he mends. At this point, it’s a possibility Bell could be out the rest of the season.
“His future is more important than us winning games,” Brown said.
Ramos sprained his ankle during the holiday break, and has been yearning to get back on the court, though Brown is erring on the side of caution.
“Rasheed’s taking the injury in stride. Kenny’s not,” Brown said. “Kenny feels that he can play, but he’s not ready. We gave him the opportunity with Brighton (Jan. 15, an Eastie loss), and he struggled. He won’t play until I feel he’s 100 percent or a doctor gives him clearance.”