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GARLAND, Texas -- The Garland Owls, led by seniors Marcus Thompson and Emmanuel Okoroba, needed overtime, but they finally got that elusive win over Garland Naaman Forest.
Thompson drove the lane, drew a pair of defenders, and then found the Okoroba open for a layup with just over two seconds left to propel Garland to a 43-41 win in Ranger Gym and keep it tied with Garland Lakeview Centennial atop the District 10-5A standings.
"They tried to double-team me, and me and E-man, we just improvised and were able to get the win," said Thompson, a 5-11 point guard.
Thompson then tipped the inbounds pass off of Naaman Forest guard Jerry Tyler and out of bounds to give Garland the ball and the win.
Not only had these Owl seniors never beaten 24th-ranked Naaman Forest, but head coach Randy Love had never beaten the Rangers (17-5, 2-1) in his five years as head coach and said he doesn't know how long it's been since Garland (17-5, 4-0) has pulled off a win over Naaman.
"This game was really big," Thompson said. "I've been on varsity for three years, and this is the first time we beat them, so this was a huge win for us. This whole program hasn't beaten them in I don't know how long."
The 6-foot-6 Okoroba and Thompson led the Owls all night long. Okoroba finished with a game-high 17 points to go along with five rebounds, and Thompson did everything -- 13 points, five rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks. Both players got dirty, drawing charges as the Owls held off a furious rally by Naaman Forest in the second half. Kent High led the Rangers with 12 points and three 3-pointers.
Still, Okoroba and Thompson felt they had something personal to prove in the extra session. Thompson committed several turnovers trying to make something happen in the second half, and Okoroba struggled with foul trouble and wildly missed a tip-in on an attempted last second put-back in regulation.
"I think they just wanted this too bad, and they tried to press too much and made some mistakes," Love said of his senior leaders.
Okoroba couldn't wait for the second chance, and the Owls patiently moved the ball around, killing the clock for the last minute of overtime, looking to get the ball from their point guard into the big man -- just as they had attempted to do during the closing seconds of the fourth quarter to no avail.
"I wanted the ball at the end of the game, because I had been scoring all game," Okoroba said. "I wanted the ball because I knew God would bless me again."
Love wasn't surprised at all by the performances of Thompson or Okoroba.
"E-Man brings that post work. He's been playing really well all through district, giving us 17 points and about 12 boards a game," Love said. "Marcus is the leader of this team. He's our ball-handler, he gets us into our offense, and he's one of the best defensive players in the district."
Now, Love is hoping for another win over Naaman. The two teams meet again at Garland on Friday, Feb. 5.
"Whenever we play, it's always like this -- overtime, close games, last-second shots -- but we never won. Hopefully, this will give us confidence." Love said.