Northeast got the rematch at home it wanted with reigning 7A state champion Blanche Ely in the regional semifinals Tuesday and can thank one of the least-talked-about players on the roster.
Reserve forward Deandre Longham made two free throws with five seconds left as Northeast held off a furious fourth-quarter rally by McArthur to escape with a 55-53 victory in the Region 4-7A quarterfinals Thursday.
Northeast’s matchup against Blanche Ely was secured after a desperation three-point attempt from Derric Jean, one of the heroes of the Mustangs’ fourth-quarter comeback, fell out of bounds with 3.1 seconds left.
“We didn’t expect a close game but our kids fought tough, we stayed around and do what we do,” Hurricanes coach Gerald Gillion said. “We just have to keep moving on. Deandre hitting those two free throws was big time. We teach our kids as seniors you have to be ready to play.”
Northeast 6-10 center Malik Price-Martin helped spoil the Mustangs’ first home game in the regional quarterfinals with a team-high 19 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Hunter Osceola added 12 points, including a three-pointer with 4:22 left that gave the Hurricanes a 50-41 lead.
But the Mustangs, showing the mettle that launched them on an improbable run to their first district title, stormed back with a 11-2 run sparked by Khalil Millwood, who finished with a game-high 23 points, Jean (11 points) and Richard Desvarieux.
During the spurt, Jean scored four points and had a steal, Desvarieux made a three-pointer from the left wing and then brought the Mustangs fans to their feet when he spun in a reverse layup to forge a 52-52 tie with 1:54 left. McArthur had a chance to go ahead after Price-Martin missed a pair of free throws with 32 seconds left but Majestic Tejada lost the ball with six seconds left, setting the stage for Longham’s game-winning free throws.
NE (13-9): Price-Martin 19, Osceola 12, Longham 2, Mendez 5, Wiltshire 2, King 5, Simonson 6, Sanchious 5. McA (13-10): Millwood 23, Harris 2, Tejada 6, Jean 11, Ferguson 5, Desvarieux 6. Half: NE 25-22. Three-pointers: Price-Martin 1, Osceola 2, Mendez 1, Simonson 1. Desvarieux 1. Rebounds: Price-Martin 13.