East Lansing entered halftime of the Capital Area Activities Conference (CAAC) Blue Tournament third place game leading, 21-20. The Trojans finished the third quarter leading, 45-29.
And in the eight minutes of basketball in between, a guard duo of junior Brevin Jackson and senior Marcus Wourman scored all 24 of East Lansing’s points.
“They really have the green light as long as they’re just playing the right way,” Trojans Head Coach Ray Mitchell said postgame.
Jackson’s 14 and Wourman’s 10 third-quarter points pushed East Lansing to a comfortable lead and eventually a win over Okemos, 57-48. After initially falling behind 11-0, and taking 6:32 to score a point, it was Wourman and Jackson leading the Trojans’ efforts to claw back into the game.
And after a lengthy Covid pause, two games in three days got the Trojans’ legs back under them heading into districts.
“It’s tough to get your legs back,” Mitchell said.
Initially, it looked like the rim was sealed over for the Trojans. Slashing layups rolled off the iron, leaping putbacks fell short and, largely, jump shots clanked off the rim.
As East Lansing’s offense sputtered out of the gate and Okemos inched ahead to its 11-0 lead, Mitchell called a timeout with 3:35 left in the first quarter.
Out of that timeout huddle, the Trojans got a clean scoring look for Jackson: a jump shot from the left elbow that didn’t go down. The defense, though, helped kickstart the Trojans’ offense, forcing a bad shot from Okemos and setting up Jackson to push ahead in transition.
Jackson leapt to try and finally score for EL, but banged into Dray Chase — missing the shot but drawing the shooting foul. With 2:28 left in the first quarter, Jackson hit both free throws and finally put the Trojans on the board, 11-2.
“So, we knew that eventually it would come back,” Mitchell said about the offensive start. “We just had to keep fighting through it.”
Okemos led, 14-7, after the first quarter, and the Trojans steadily chipped away in the early part of the second quarter. Jackson and Wourman were central to that effort.
Trailing 18-13, Jackson drew a foul and earned a trip to the free throw line. In the seconds after the foul, Okemos Head Coach Jeff Wonch was assessed a technical foul. The Trojans got four free throw attempts and possession. Wourman sank the technical free throws and Jackson made his pair. With the clock stopped at 3:56 remaining in the second quarter, the Trojans cut a five-point lead down to one.
And one minute later, Wourman cashed in a long two-point shot, putting the Trojans ahead for the first time, 19-18, and for good. A third quarter scoring flurry ensured that.
On the first possession out of halftime, East Lansing got Jackson open for a left corner 3. He buried it. Two possessions and one minute later, Jackson scored another 3 from the same spot. Jackson eventually drove Okemos to a timeout with 5:38 left in the third after he stole the ball and scored it himself.
Jackson had opened the second half on an 8-0 run himself, putting the Trojans ahead, 29-20.
Then it was Wourman’s turn for an 8-point burst. He went hard to the rim on three-straight possessions, scoring three layups — getting fouled on two of them, to boot. He made both those free throws.
Halfway through the third quarter, Jackson and Wourman each had eight and put the Trojans firmly in control. From there, they basically took turns scoring.
Jackson made an acrobatic layup. Then he made another in transition, off an assist from Wourman. Then Wourman rose up and hit a 14-foot jump shot. And with three seconds remaining in the third quarter, Jackson got fouled. He made both free throws.
“I have nothing but trust in both of those guys to make the play, make the right play,” Mitchell said. “And really they’re great at attacking the basket. They can shoot off the dribble. I mean, they can score at all three levels.”
East Lansing led, 45-29, after three frames. And though Okemos managed to tighten the margin slightly, the damage Wourman and Jackson had done was too much to overcome.
Check out all of Gary Caldwell’s photos for ELi from this game here. If you share them, be sure to credit “Gary Caldwell for ELi.”