Johnson C. Smith discovered character and potential in the most unlikely of scenarios.
The Golden Bulls rallied from a 22-point hole to beat Morehouse 61-60 in the CIAA/SIAC Challenge on Saturday at Brayboy Gym to go above .500 for the first time this season. J. C. Smith (4-3) broke out of a first-half funk by outscoring the Maroon Tigers 40-20 punctuated by 52 percent shooting and a more competitive attitude.
“The first half, I thought we were out of character,” Golden Bulls coach Steve Joyner said. “We were pulling apart, we were not together. We had to regroup at halftime, and I am so happy we did regroup and came back and began to play better.”
The Golden Bulls put in major work to catch Morehouse (2-4). Reserve small forward Markell Lotharp (11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks) and guard Raston Brown (team-high 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting and 6 rebounds) each scored nine points in the second half and Lotharp’s three-pointer from the top of the arc with 1:41 left pushed J.C. Smith ahead 56-54.
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“It was one of those in-rhythm shots,” said Lotharp, a graduate of Marshville Forest Hills High. “Coach probably would’ve preferred me taking it to the hole, but I was in rhythm, I caught it (the defender) was back on me and I had faith in the shot.”
Stedmon Lemon’s (12 points) pair of free throws with 1.2 seconds left provided the margin of victory, as Morehouse’s Brandon Glover (10 points) converted a three-point heave at the buzzer.
“The first half as a team we weren’t together,” Lotharp said. “The second half, we decided to play as a team, come together as one and get the job done.”
Four Maroon Tigers scored in double figures, with Michael Scott (12 points) joining reserves Tryone Brown (12 points), Johnathan Walker (11 points) and Glover. Even with a 40-21 halftime advantage and momentum, Morehouse couldn’t hold off J.C. Smith, which limited the Tigers to 28 percent shooting (7-of-25) after the break.
“We had to slow their rhythm down,” Joyner said. “Their rhythm the first half was just tremendous. They had good ball movement, they ran us around the court and those three guards they were playing were just outstanding in the first half. I think the key was we slowed them down in the second half.”
“We’ve been down 20 before and came back before so we play like we’re down,” Lotharp said. “We made a couple of big shots, got a couple of stops on defense.”