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StLToday: University City rallies for overtime victory against Francis Howell

StL High School Sports Link: www.stltoday.com/sports/high-school/boys-basketball/university-city-rallies-for-overtime-victory-against-francis-howell

University City rallies for overtime victory against Francis Howell

Dec 15, 2020

University City 54, Francis Howell 51 (OT)

Barry Thomas of University City lifts a shot over the defense of Francis Howell on Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at Francis Howell High School in Weldon Spring, Missouri. Paul Baillargeon, STLhighschoolsports.com

 

The University City senior forward knocked down three big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help the Lions rally from an early 15-point deficit and knock off Francis Howell 54-51 in overtime in a GAC/Suburban Challenge boys basketball game Tuesday night at Howell.

Ming said the win was special for the team to honor Lions coach Kelvin Lee, who turned 61 years old Monday.

“I'm real glad to have Coach Lee around. He's a really good coach,” Ming said. “Just trust his process and we are going to be successful.”

U-City, the No. 3 team in the STLhighschoolsports.com small-schools rankings, is off to its first 6-0 start this century.

“I like the way my guys fight. They feed off my passion,” Lee said. “It was a big win for us tonight.”

Ming, Barry Thomas and Jalen Hampton each scored 12 points to lead the way for the Lions. The nine fourth quarter points by Ming and the eight points by Thomas after halftime were huge for U-City because leading scorer Hampton had just four points after halftime due to ongoing foul trouble.

“In my eyes, he's our best player,” Ming said. “So, whenever he's in trouble, we've got to have the team pick him up. When it's time to step in, you've got to do what you've got to do.”

 

Fifth-ranked large school Howell (4-2) lost on its home court for the second successive game and just the third time in seven seasons.

“I thought we executed our game plan pretty well, but they're just a good team,” Vikings coach Kurt Jacob said. “I'm just really proud of our effort and our tenacity because lately we've been playing kind of flat and we haven't figured out our identity yet. I think tonight we proved that we could get out and compete with the really good teams in the area.”

Six-foot-10 senior center Sam Thompson led all scorers with 18 points for the Vikings, 13 of which came in the opening half, including his first 3-pointer of the season.

The Vikings led 41-36 after three quarters, but the Lions whittled that deficit down to one point midway through the fourth.

Ming's second 3-pointer of the quarter tied things at 45 with 3:35 left and his third trey 33 seconds later gave U-City its first lead of the game at 48-47.

“Brandon Ming came up big for me tonight and he's that type of player,” Lee said. “He's been struggling a little bit, but I always tell him I've got faith in him. I've seen him do it in practice. He just had to bring it to the game and he brought tonight in the second half.”

The Lions led by three entering the final minute of regulation, but two free throws apiece from Maddox and Thompson, the latter with 9.7 seconds left, helped the Vikings tie it 51-51 and send the game to overtime.

U-City took the air out of the ball by spreading it out for the first two minutes of the four-minute OT period, but a steal by Preston Fortner gave Howell a chance and the Vikings held it until a Matt James 3-point attempt missed the mark with 1:20 left. It was the only shot of OT for either team, save for a desperation three-quarter court heave at the buzzer.

“We had an open look and that's all you can ask,” Jacob said. “That's OK. He'll make the next one and we'll be fine.”

Thomas sank a free throw with 32.8 seconds left and, after a Vikings turnover, Larry Abbey sank two more with four seconds left to give the Lions the victory and big boost heading into an 11-day break before they take on DuBourg the day after Christmas.

“We'll focus on them in a couple days,” Lee said. “We've got to concentrate on our academics for a little bit.”

After connecting on just 18 of their 63 shot attempts in a frustrating night loss to Lafayette last Friday, the Vikings knocked down half that total in the first half alone, as they made their first five shots of the game and finished the first quarter 9-of-10 from the floor to take a 22-11 lead.

“We haven't necessarily been getting off to the best of starts, so that was a big goal for us tonight to come out with intensity early and really compete and set the tone,” Jacob said. “And we did. I was really proud of them. They did exactly what we asked them to do.”

The Vikings cooled down to just 4-of-12 shooting in the second quarter, but still outscored the Lions by one and emerged with a 34-22 halftime lead.

“They were on fire, but I told my team at halftime that we were fine,” Lee said. “They could not continue to shoot like that for the whole game and, if they do, they deserve to win.”

U-City struggled to a 5-for-16 effort from the field in the first quarter, but improved its percentage in the second quarter with a 5-for-10 showing.

Hampton led the Lions with eight first-half points, but he also picked up his third foul in the final two minutes of the first half. Hampton later fouled out in the final minute of regulation.

Howell scored the first three points of the second half to regain a 15-point advantage, but U-City scored the next eight to get within 37-30 and get itself back into the game to make its move for the come-from-behind win and the continued perfect start to the season.

“It feels great,” Ming said. “As long as we just keep up the hard work at practice and keep our momentum, I feel like we can go all the way.”

 
University City 54, Francis Howell 51 (OT)

 

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