Mainland overcame a 12-point deficit to win their 22nd consecutive game of the season.
For the opening 16 minutes of Mainland’s contest against rival Atlantic on the night of Friday, Jan. 25, the Buccaneers couldn’t do anything right.
The tough defense, the ball movement and the timely shot-making that propelled the Buccaneers to victory in their previous 21 games was seemingly absent.
Down 30-18 at half time, Buccaneers head coach Joe Giddens unleashed fury when his team entered the locker room at Mainland High School.
He needed to inspire them, so with a solid kick, he sent the nearest garbage can flying. Then, he challenged them.
“They had to show me that they wanted it more than the other team," he said.
Leading scorer Jordan Sears, who scored just 2 points in the first half, was the first to get the message.
The barrage began nearly 3 minutes into the third quarter. Sears was set to inbound the ball under the Sharks’ basket. With no teammate open to pass it to, the junior guard bounced the ball of a defender’s back and laid it in. He scored on three straight possessions to bring the Buccaneers within striking distance.
“I can’t just not shoot,” Sears said. “I just had to keep playing my game and believe things would fall into place.”
When senior guard R.J. Rhoden exited the game with 4 minutes to play in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury, fellow guard Taron Keith joined Sears in picking up the slack.
After falling behind by as much as 12 points, the Buccaneers entered the final period down 3.
Sears scored 19 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, and Taron Keith chipped in with 15 points. When the Buccaneers seized the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter, both players were integral in the Buccaneers maintaining that lead.
For the game, Sears went 9-for-10 from the free throw line, and Keith went 5-for-6.
“When a big player like R.J. goes down, Jordan and I have to step up,” Keith said. “We have to be weapons.”
The Buccaneers held on to beat Atlantic 55-46. It was their fourth straight win over the Sharks and their 22nd win in a row this season.
“We’ve been working hard, and they’re buying in,” Giddens said. “They’re having fun. They’re treating each other like brothers. It’s a family environment. That’s been the difference.”