Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Smart move: Switch helps Marcus block SGP's bid, earn state berth
FORT WORTH - Flower Mound Marcus and South Grand Prairie, ranked No. 1 and 2 in The News’ final Class 5A area poll, have been eying each other from a distance for more than two months with a looming playoff matchup and a state tournament berth at stake.
However big the anticipation, it couldn’t match Marcus’ thrilling, gut-wrenching, back-and-forth 39-38 victory over SGP in front of nearly 2,000 at the Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center.
As the defending Class 5A state champs, Marcus (37-2) heads back to the UIL state tournament in Austin next Friday. SGP (35-3) ends its season after having reached its first regional in 26 years, but not until Marcus senior Marcus Smart blocked a potential winning shot by SGP senior Javon Austin as time expired. Marcus coach Danny Henderson said his top defensive assistant, Kenny Boren, had been game-planning for SGP for two months.
“(SGP) is the best Texas high school team we’ve played,” Henderson said. “Kenny has been studying them for two months. (On the final possession,) it was his decision to switch Marcus to Austin, a great shooter and you knew they’d try to go to him. And can you expect anything less of Marcus Smart?"
The 6-4 Smart - a McDonald’s All-American and Oklahoma State signee - went behind a screen but popped back on the other side so quickly he was able to swat away the final shot by the 6-0 Austin, who led SGP with 16 points.
“I knew as soon as I jumped, I’d block it,” Smart said. “I had the height and the length on him. Our coaches told us not to foul but not to just give up the shot. Our coaches have been preparing us for this. They’ve been sticking in plays that SGP runs, like where they like to shoot, when we’re getting ready for other teams. And we knew those teams didn’t run those plays. Nobody said it. But we knew they were getting us ready for this.”
Ranked No.2 behind Marcus since mid-season, SGP lived up to its considerable billing. Marcus scored the first eight points but SGP rallied within 12-10 to end the first quarter. Marcus held only a 22-21 halftime lead relying primarily on Smart, who ended with a game-high 19 points.
SGP took its first lead, 33-32, as time expired in the third quarter with 6-8 senior Chris Washburn Jr. hitting a 26-foot, 3-pointer. A Texas-El Paso signee, Washburn (the son of former North Carolina State and NBA player Chris Washburn) finished with 12 points.
Two Smart free throws made it, 37-37, with 2:46 left and Marcus senior Jared Hamilton hit two free throws for a 39-37 lead with 1:32 left. Washburn hit one of two free throws to make it 39-38 with 32.5 seconds left. Marcus gave SGP its final possession as senior Nick Banyard lost the ball out of bounds while getting ready to jump for a dunk and a 3-point lead with 15 seconds left. Instead, SGP got possession trailing by a point.
“We told Nick not to worry about that,” Henderson said. “We end every practice by making a defensive stop. And that’s what we were going to have to do to end this.”