By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Republic, Mo. — For the first time since 1991, Greenwood is headed back to the final four.
The Blue Jays held off a late rally to down Marionville 57-52 in Saturday’s Class 2 quarterfinal matchup.
Aminu Mohammed led Greenwood with 20 points, including a pair of free throws to secure the Blue Jay victory with ten seconds left in the contest.
Greenwood got off to a sluggish start and trailed for most of the opening period.
After missing a battery of shots throughout the quarter, Mohammed hit his first basket at the 1:25 mark to trim the Marionville lead to 9-7.
The score kicked off a 9-0 Greenwood run; however, the Comets quickly responded.
Joshua Goodman poured in 15 of his game-high 29 points in the first half to keep Marionville within striking distance.
Greenwood head coach Darren Taylor talked about the many challenges the 5-foot-9 guard presented his squad.
“[Goodman] is really hard to stay in front of, and he’s a pure jump shooter,” Taylor said. “He really hurt us bad, and we made some bad decisions late in the game with the basketball. We weren’t executing our offense, and it led us to getting the ball in some bad situations.”
Goodman’s 3-pointer at the 3:42 mark of the first half tied the game at 22-22.
After Greenwood called a quick timeout, Garrett Litherland went to work.
The senior forward scored the next six points and helped spearhead a 13-0 Blue Jay run to close out the half with a 35-22 lead.
Litherland finished with 17 points and was quick to credit Mohammed for drawing multiple defenders, and then finding open teammates for easy scores.
“Aminu takes a lot of pressure off me,” Litherland said. “It was just about moving to areas where they weren’t so they’d help on Aminu. I just go to the other side and look to see if he’s going to pass it.”
Mohammed returned the favor, teasing his teammate a bit in the process.
“The way they were sending two guys at me, I told [Litherland] he’s going to be free every time down low. All we’ve got to do is just attack the same thing — he’s always free — he could have scored more baskets today than what he did, but he really played great.”
Down by 12 to start the fourth quarter, Marionville rallied.
Jordan Williams’ basket with 56 seconds left cut the lead to a single point at 53-52; however, the Comets were unable to get any closer.
Following a Grant Harper free throw to stretch Greenwood’s lead to 54-52, Mohammed’s big moment arrived.
A Marionville turnover with 12 seconds left on the clock led to an immediate foul on the inbounds play.
Mohammed calmly walked the length of the court, took a few deep breaths and twice pantomimed his shot at the line.
The five-star prospect then converted both shots to push the Greenwood lead back to four with only ten seconds remaining.
After the game, Mohammed talked about trying to maintain composure in a crucial situation, despite struggling early.
“I was missing shots, but I can’t force the issue,” Mohammed said. “I just gotta be patient and let the game come to me instead of me just pushing hard and going for the game. It was a slow start, but I ended up finishing strong. I knew I had to hit that shot for us to win this game, and I did it.”
While the loss ended Marionville’s season at 22-8, Young praised his team for fighting every step of the way.
“I was really proud of the way they finished, and that’s what we’ve been doing the last few weeks,” Young said. “Playing hard, playing together and just trying not to lose, and we had a great crowd in there that gave our kids energy. It didn’t always go our way, but the last few weeks our kids have gotten tougher, and I think they showed that today.”
Next up for Greenwood (27-3) is a March 8 semifinal matchup with Plattsburg at Missouri State University.
Class 2 Quarterfinal: Greenwood – 57, Marionville – 52
Marionville 11 11 11 19 — 52
Greenwood 14 21 10 12 — 57
Marionville scoring: Joshua Goodman – 29, Gavin Stanton – 12, Jordan Williams – 5, Evan Dotson – 4, Laythen Utke – 2
Greenwood scoring: Aminu Mohammed – 20, Garrett Litherland – 17, Grant Harper – 10,
John Sharp – 7, Thomas Pinegar – 3