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Maturing Justin Mason saves best for last as Susan Wagner stuns Curtis, 75-66

By Charlie De Biase Jr. | debiase@siadvance.com

Last year at this time, Susan Wagner’s Justin Mason was a sophomore trying to learn the ropes of varsity life.

Now, he’s evolving into a seasoned veteran and it was never more obvious than at Curtis on Friday night.

Mason scored 16 of his game-high 20 points in the final period, including an 8-for-8 performance from the free-throw line in the final 1:44 as the Falcons used a second-half surge to register a 75-66, come-from-behind PSAL victory over the Warriors in St. George.

The Falcons, who also received 19 points from senior sharpshooter Bleron Lata (five treys), overcame a 13-point, first-half deficit to improve to 3-2 overall, including 2-0 in league play.

"It started with defense,'' said SW coach Joe Coscia of his team’s turn-around. The Falcons outscored Curtis 45-27 in the second half as they limited the hosts to just nine points in the third quarter. "Curtis executed and played a lot harder than we did in the first half. We were doing things like fumbling the ball and not boxing out and we just played a lot crisper in the second half, especially on the defensive end.''

The Warriors (1-4 overall), who were paced by the 15 points and eight rebounds of Michael Oyekanmi, owned a 39-30 lead at intermission and still owned a 48-40 advantage with 39.7 seconds left in the half.

A Lata trey got the Falcons within five and when Mason made a steal and converted it into a layup at the third-quarter buzzer, SW’s deficit was down to three with a head of steam entering the final eight minutes.

And that’s when Mason took over.

With the score tied at 53-53 and under four minutes to play, Mason’s top-of-the-key trey snapped the tie and ignited a 10-2 run that also saw Thompson (six fourth-quarter points) and Lata contribute big buckets. In fact, Thompson’s basket off a rebound gave SW a 63-55 lead with 2:19 left and Curtis coach Dwayne Archbold signaled for time.

"It helped a lot playing on varsity last year -- it prepared me for the situation I was in tonight because I know what to expect,'' said the soft-spoken Mason, who added team highs in rebounds (eight) and assists (four). "You can feel the momentum switching and we knew we had to finish the game.''

And finish it they did at the free-throw line. The Falcons, who were 20 for 22 from the charity stripe in the game, connected on each of their 12 attempts in the final 1:44, including eight from Mason. Thompson and Dino Ivackovic combined for the other four freebies to ice the victory.

"I’m just playing basketball, that’s it,'' laughed Mason when referring to how he deals with the end-of-the-game pressure. "I’ve been doing it all my life. We knew the free throws were important and it pretty much helped us pull it out.''

"He’s a quiet assassin,'' added Coscia of his junior. "He’s got a high basketball IQ and wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line.''

NOTES: Andrew Molina and Fredrick Jenkins finished with nine points apiece and Thompson added eight for SW ... The Falcons finished with nine treys, Curtis three ... The Warriors won the battle of the boards 40-37, but SW closed the gap after halftime thanks to a 20-11 advantage. Molina and Thomson combined for another 13 boards while Robbie Mitchell (12 points) tied Oyekanmi for the team lead with eight ... Curtis had 10 different scorers, including England (eight), Darren Tehe (seven), Erik Jarecki (seven) and Jamal Evans (seven) ... SW committed just four of its 11 turnovers after halftime. Curtis had 12 miscues, but nine after intermission.


Source: www.silive.com