BY ANDREW O'BRIEN | SPORTS EDITOR
Trailing Bishop Kenny in the fourth quarter on Dec. 28, the Father Lopez boys basketball team needed someone to take over. They needed someone — anyone — to try and reel the team back within striking distance.
Malik Maitland accepted the mission. He rattled off 18 straight points over the final eight minutes, bringing Father Lopez to within three points and giving his team a chance to win and advance to the finals of the Father Lopez Holiday Tournament. In the end, Bishop Kenny won, 63-53, but it was another high-octane performance for Father Lopez’s junior point guard.
“I just wanted to destroy,” Maitland said last week, as his team was preparing to play in another holiday tournament in Miami. “That’s all I could think about. I was in the zone, I guess.”
That machine-like mentality is probably a large reason for Maitland’s success.
Over the past 10 games, he’s averaging 26.3 points, 6.6 assists and 3.4 steals per game. He had a run of four straight games when he scored more than 30 points, including a 42-point performance and a 40-point performance.
“I think the biggest thing that has developed in Malik’s game is the ability to score different ways,” Father Lopez coach Ed Miller said. “He was always good at getting the ball to the basket, and his court vision is outstanding. But now he’s added the mid-range game and he’s definitely a better 3-point shooter.”
Anyone inside Father Lopez’s gym for the game against Bishop Kenny can attest to that. In that fourth quarter, Maitland would take the ball up the court, look for a high-ball screen and let go of the jumper. He caught fire — NBA Jam kind of fire. Shot after shot flushed the nylon, and his team almost was able to pull off the win.
Almost isn’t good enough, though. And Maitland doesn’t want his team to be known for almost.
“I don’t want to let anybody down,” Maitland said. “I want to give God the glory, and I just have to do what I have to do and what’s best for my teammates. If I have to put up numbers to win the basketball game for my teammates, I’ll do it. If I have to get rebounds or assists, I’ll do it.”