Southeast practiced all week in a gym with no heat, but Israel Barnes and Johnny Murdock warmed up the North gym quickly.
In the Buffaloes’ 77-71 victory Tuesday night, they accounted for 56 points and solidified Southeast (5-1) as the No. 2 City League team. Barnes said when he and Murdock are hot, they are a hard team to stop.
“He was hoopin’ tonight,” Barnes said. “Especially in the first half, he saw that they were keying in on me, and he just took advantage of it.”
Barnes scored 26 of his 37 points in the second half, seeming to find his groove after the holiday break. He came into Tuesday’s contest averaging more than 22 points per game.
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Redskin coach Gary Squires said North (4-3) gave up the baseline too often, which led to easy buckets for Barnes on the inside.
“I didn’t think we had the intensity that we needed tonight,” Squires said. “We stood around on offense. Defense, we didn’t do a very good job of ball pressure.… The intensity just wasn’t there.”
Barnes was outstanding, but Southeast coach Melvin Herring said the most impressive aspect of his team’s play was its readiness after the break. Having only practiced three times before meeting up with the No. 3 City League team was difficult enough. Doing so without a running heater in the gym was even more challenging.
“We struggled with our breathing and trying to get up and down the court a little bit,” Herring said.
Murdock maybe had the most daunting task of all – guarding North freshman Jackie Johnson III, who entered as the City League’s leading scorer and showed flashes of why, particularly in the second half.
Slashing through the core of the Southeast defense on a fastbreak, Johnson lowered his head before popping up for a running floater from about 8 feet that went down with a foul. Murdock smiled when asked about that sequence.
He said Johnson, 15, is the most talented young guard he has ever seen.
“He’s a good player, I’ll give him respect,” Murdock said. “I’m gonna play hard, too, though.”
Murdock held his own. Scoring 19, with 16 in the first half. He hit three three-pointers on his way to a career-high and was creative distributing the ball.
Defensively, he was often in position, but Johnson’s shooting and quickness were too much at times. He scored 25, with 13 in the third quarter.
Johnson called out plays, directed his teammates into position and had excellent anticipation on his passes. Barnes said he was “geeked” for Tuesday’s game because Johnson was going to be on the floor with him.
“I grew up playing with him,” Barnes said. “That’s my young buck, so I try to give him as much advice as I can, but he’s gonna be a great player in the City League eventually.
“He knew what he needed to do, but we came out with the win and just played Southeast basketball.”