Consortium’s Defense Stifles Oak Park En Route To 51-49 Victory

1 Mar

IMG_0178Two teams heading in opposite directions entering the last week of regular season.  Following a 51-49 Consortium win against Oak Park on the last day of February, the Cougars have won four of their past five games improving to 12-5 on the year, while the Knights have dropped their last two, and have not met pre-season expectations as a ranked team in the state.

“It feels good,” Consortium junior guard Luster Johnson said following the game.  “Because a win is just a good feeling.  But to know that you beat a good team makes it even better.”

In a game of two evenly matched teams, the outcome came down to execution in the fourth quarter.  From six minutes on, there were two ties and four lead changes.  Johnson, who led Consortium with a team-high 16, scored the Cougars’ last five points from 1:30 on.  He connected on a three to give his team a 49-48 lead with 1:15 remaining.  Then following one Oak Park free-throw, Johnson drove to the basket and finished at the rim in what turned out to be the go-ahead basket with 0:49 left.

“I knew that if something was to happen,” Johnson referred to the last few minutes of the contest, “I wanted it to be me to do it.”  “I was feeling myself and I knew those were shots that I could make so I took them with confidence.”

An Oak Park steal with 13 seconds remaining gave the Knights the ball with the opportunity to potentially to tie or win the game.  Oak Park had two shots in the final seconds, the first one missed and went off a Cougar.  With two seconds left underneath the basket, guess who made a play?  Johnson, a steal securing a Consortium victory.

The last play was only a microcosm of Consortium’s defensive prowess.  The Cougars forced twenty Knight turnovers, Johnson had four on the day.

“We knew that we had some height over their guards,” Johnson said.  “So we put a lot of pressure on them and got a lot of hands on their passes.”

Johnson was complimented in scoring by junior point guard Charles Figueroa, who contributed with 13 points.  The Cougars received just 14 points from their combined interior posts, leaving the game to be decided on the perimeter.

“Charles (Figueroa) and I have been playing together for a long time,” Johnson said of his teammate.  “Basketball made us family, we have a lot of chemistry together.”

The defending Class C state champions will compete in the Class B for the 2015 state tournament.  Much has changed in the last year for the Cougars, in fact, Luster is the only returning player who saw time in the starting lineup a season ago.  Johnson is confident his team’s new identity will still garner post-season success.

“We see ourselves getting as far as we want,” Johnson said acknowledging the post-season. “If we play our game and don’t beat ourselves, we are a pretty good basketball team.”

“I know we have the heart to persevere through whatever, all we have to do now is go out and show the State of Michigan.

On a lighter note, Luster is known for his offense, but registered three impressive defensive blocks on the day.  One of which was of the chase-down variety made popular by LeBron James.  Johnson said he will do take whatever it takes to not see the ball go through his team’s net.

“Just last night against Lincoln Park I had a chase-down block and I was over the rim,” Johnson said jokingly.  “I just hate seeing the ball go in.”

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