On Monday night, Watson Chapel senior point guard Tevin Brown sent his head coach a text message, guaranteeing a victory over cross-town rival Pine Bluff.
Brown kept true to his word as Watson Chapel (2-0) hit a basket with less than 10 seconds left to knock off Pine Bluff 62-61 Tuesday night at home.
The Zebras (0-1) took their first lead of the game at 61-60 thanks to a bucket by Roosevelt Murray with 35 seconds left, but, following a timeout by Chapel, senior Ben Marcus scored with about 10 seconds left to give the Wildcats the victory.
“I wanted the ball to stay in their hands,” Watson Chapel head coach Matt Busch said referring to his seniors. “I trust them to make the decision.
“Anytime it gets to that point of the game, it takes someone with experience and some guts just to step up to take the shot.
“I’m extremely happy for (Marcus.) I’m extremely proud of him. I know how much that basket meant to him.”
The play was designed to go inside to Marcus but Pine Bluff was able to force him outside. Marcus drove the lane and put up the layup from the right side.
Marcus finished with 10 points in the game as Watson Chapel had three score in double-digits.
Pine Bluff trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half, but a 13-4 run late in the third quarter cut Chapel’s lead to just three points. By the start of the fourth quarter, Chapel held just a five-point lead.
“Guys got the rust off,” Pine Bluff head coach Carl Smith said. “After we got into a rhythm and started moving on defense, we played better for a while.”
Pine Bluff still has five guys playing football, but Smith said he was not going to use that as an excuse.
“We got five that can help us out there on the football field, but first we got to help ourselves,” Smith said. “We had an opportunity to win this ball game.
“I think we just came up a little bit short.”
Murray led the Zebras with 18 points as Pine Bluff had four players score in double-digits, including Marcus Thomas with 15, Jmarlos Johnson with 12 and Jamul Pryor with 10.
“We aren’t going to depend on one guy and the guys are buying in on it,” Smith said.
Smith did say one of the downsides of not having his full team is the lack of depth.
“In that instance, the only thing that will hurt you is your rotation,” Smith said. “Guys played too many minutes and I was asking a lot out of them.
“We hung in there and we fought.”
The two teams traded baskets in the fourth quarter until the Wildcats took a 60-57 lead on a three-pointer from senior C.J. Robinson with about 2:17 left in the game.
Johnson grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on the put-back to trim Chapel’s lead to 60-59. A turnover by the Wildcats gave the Zebras a chance at the lead and Murray converted with the basket inside.
“Basketball is a game of runs,” Busch said. “In this environment, you can’t hear yourself think.
“I don’t know how many turnovers we had, but it certainly felt like a lot.”
After scoring 20 points in the first quarter, Busch said Chapel “hit a wall” in the second with just eight points. They had a 28-27 lead at the half and scored 23 points in the third quarter.
For the second straight game, Leonard Robinson led the Wildcats in scoring. He finished Tuesday’s game with 16 points. Robinson had 13 points and Brown chipped in with seven points.
“Tevin and C.J. are two seniors that have played a bunch for me,” Busch said. “… I thought they did a real good job of handling our team and putting us in the right spots.”
The home team has won the last three meetings between Chapel and Pine Bluff as the Zebras defeated the Wildcats at McFadden Gymnasium last year.
“We are certainly glad we got the win,” Busch said. “They are a bigger school. They have more kids than us, but we don’t make any excuses.
“I feel like we can compete with them.”