By: Tuesday and Friday
Majak Wenyin hit a runner with 15 seconds left in the game to give Memorial the 37 to 35 upset victory over Pinkerton in the prelim playoff game. Wenyin scored Memorial's last 5 points in the last 50 seconds as the Crusaders now move into the quarterfinals on Friday for a visit to their old friends at Central.
2 things were apparent in the first quarter of this game. Memorial would have a tough time with Pinkerton's Alex Patrikis and Memorial would miss Oumaru Kante and his point guard skills. The initial stanza became a meticulous and plodding period of basketball. Patrikis was a force on the boards and in the paint in scoring 7 of Pinkerton's 11 points in the first period. Memorial was serving up turnovers like a Manchester south end bakery and Pinkerton was the willing recipient of these basketball bakery specials.
The 2nd period had another pattern that developed. Memorial would have more people scoring than Pinkerton. 5 Crusaders combined for their 13 2nd period points while Pinkerton had only 3 people score in Patrikis, Light and Colbert. Memorial got a line on Patrikis by making things more difficult around the hoop with their defensive length. The Crusader defensive length started forcing Pinkerton into some turnovers as Memorial took a 23 to 18 lead into halftime.
So, who played point guard for Memorial? I'm glad you asked. The point guard position for Memorial was like the MacGyver black bag for escaping peril from evil forces. Need some point guard wire? You have Wenyin. Need some point guard tweezers. You have O'Brien. Need some point guard rubber bands? You have Torres. Need some point guard paper clip. Try Gonzalez who was up from JV wearing Kante's uniform. Coach MacGyver.... I mean Coach Fitzpatrick had a dizzying array of people handling the ball for the Crusaders.
Even though Memorial had a ghastly start to the 3rd period with some more bakery specials of turnovers they build on their lead. Mike Torres slashed to the hoop and converted with 4:49 left and drew the 3rd foul on Chris Light. A Gonzalez wearing Kante jersey hoop gave memorial it's largest lead of the game at 28 - 20. Turnovers continued to plague Memorial. This deficiency for Memorial helped Pinkerton get a 6 - 0 run to end the 3rd period which was capped by a Cam Welch basket with 10 seconds left to make it 28 to 26 Memorial heading into the 4th.
Chris Light tied the game at 28 early in the 4th. Cam Welch hit a hoop with 6:15 left to give Pinkerton their first lead since the first half. 10 seconds later Chris Light picked up his 4th foul. Over the next 3 and half minutes the teams traded baskets to have the game tied at 32. With 2:27 left a Light freebie made it 33 - 32 Pinkerton. Memorial went very cold, including one sequence where they missed 5 shots in a row close to the basket, much to the dismay of the Crusader faithful. Kevin Colbert hit 2 FTs with 1:52 left to make it 35 to 32 Pinkerton.
Memorial stayed cold and then fouled Pinkerton. With 1:14 left Pinkerton stepped to the line for the front end of a one and one. There was double pain on this FT as Pinkerton missed and Chris Light was called for his 5th foul on the rebound. Memorial set up an offensive set and worked the ball to Majak Wenyin. He buried an extended elbow 3 with 50 seconds left to tie the game at 35.
If you look in Webster's today under the word redemption you might find the name Majak Wenyin for the definition. The quietly slender Crusader had about a rough of game one could have. He baked up a lot of the Crusader turnovers. The ball did not have a good feeling in Majak's hands for the first 31 minutes of the game. Errant passes, errant dribbles and missed shots were his statistical sheet in this game.......Until the last 50 seconds. I asked Majak after the game how he came to play the last 50 seconds after having a rough first 31 minutes. "Coach still had confidence in me. He told me I was still a good shooter and to keep on shooting."
Pinkerton then had the ball with 50 seconds left and the score tied at 35. A team control foul was called on Pinkerton with 37 seconds left. Memorial came down and made a couple of "MacGyver-like" passes from their "MacGyver-like" guards that sent a rush of exhaling from the Crusader faithful. After these breath taking passes Wenyin had the ball near where he had just hit the game tying 3. His defender played him tight. Wenyin slashed to the hoop and buried a 5 foot runner with 15 seconds left in the game. "I knew when I saw the defender playing tight on me to take away my outside shot I could get a step on him and drive to the hoop", said Wenyin.
Pinkerton raced down the court, seemed confused on offense, let precious seconds tick away and called time out with 4 seconds left. A Colbert 3 attempt found iron at the buzzer and Memorial had the upset victory. Chris Light played an outstanding game and was the game's high scorer with 14 points. Patrikis was a bull in the paint all night and finished with 11. Majak Wenyin lead Memorial with 11 points. Coach Fitzpatrick had this to say about Wenyin: "I told him to keep shooting even though he was having a rough night with his shot and with the turnovers. I always have faith in his shot. Majak made the 2 biggest plays of our season."
On an amazing night of basketball when so many of the D1 prelim games went down to the wire this Memorial - Pinkerton was just another of the amazing games. It's also amazing that when a player struggles for 31 minutes of a basketball game that a coach and a player can have faith in each other and in the end receive the purest form of basketball redemption.