Yusuf Muhammad’s buzzer-beater from near half-court pushed No. 5 W.D. Mohammed past No. 3 Greenforest Christian 43-42 Tuesday night, but perhaps the senior’s 44-foot shot – and it was a shot, not a throw – shouldn’t have been a surprise.
Without second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Hussein Clark, a 6-foot-4 senior forward sidelined by a dislocated thumb, the Caliphs (18-1, 6-0 Region 5-A) were undersized and made more field goals from beyond the 3-point arc (eight) than inside (seven) at Greenforest (14-4, 5-1).
Majid Omar made four 3-pointers on the way to scoring 14 points, Muhammad Hamilton added 12 points and two treys, and Muhammad merely kept the story line going with his second long ball – the game-winning bomb.
“We did what we had to do,” said W.D. Mohammed coach Farad Abdur-Rahman. “They had so much size.”
This game’s finish qualified for near-miracle status.
The host Eagles took a 42-40 lead when Rashad Swain drove from beyond the right elbow to the free throw line, and then down the lane for a heavily-contested layup.
The clock appeared to read 2.7 when Swain made the shot, and the visiting Caliphs took a fast timeout. The clock read 2.0. After inbounding from the baseline to about 15 feet, M.D. Mohammed took another timeout, and the clock read 1.9.
Abdur-Rahman drew up a play. “(Muhammad) was the third option,” the Caliphs coach said.
Senior Jihad Hameen – directly across from the Greenforest bench – looked toward the goal in his attempt to inbound, and then bounced a cross-court pass that skipped in the backcourt before finding Muhammad barely in the front court.
From a few feet in front of the scorer’s table, the senior turned toward the basket and – with 6-foot-7 Greenforest senior forward Ugo Celestine (game-high 15-points) racing toward him and the Greenforest gym in full throat – he let ‘er fly.
“I didn’t know I was going to get the ball, but my teammates passed me the ball and I was just so grateful to get it and shoot with confidence,” said Muhammad, who finished with seven points and two treys. “That’s all I can say.”
Greenforest, whose three previous losses came to teams ranked in higher classifications in Georgia or Alabama, led most of the game although the Eagles were never firmly in control.
The Eagles led 20-15 at halftime after 6-9 senior center Tosin Mehinti scored six of his 11 points.
W.D. Mohammed started the third quarter on an 8-2 run to take a 23-22 lead on a jumper by 6-5 senior Joel Nuridiin – the only Caliph over 6-2. In the first 1:47 of the second half, the Caliphs had scored as many points as in either of the first two quarters as Greenforest turned the ball over on four of six possessions.
It helped the visitors that Hamilton and Omar each made 3-pointers off Greenforest turnovers.
Greenforest coach David Jones, who has seen a thing or two on the way to winning more than 700 games as a coach in multiple states with notable stops at Southwest Atlanta and Southside, said his team’s inattention to detail hurt.
“The good thing is it didn’t happen in a region or a state tournament. Maybe it will wake us up, because I told our kids that we were a little too carefree in practice the past two days,” explained the second-year Greenforest coach. “They had something to prove because we had beaten them three times last year, and we’re rivals.
“They came to prove something, and they did. We’re hurt . . . shocked, but they played a great game.”
Mehinti, a UAB signee, scored 11 points, and did a fine job keeping the Caliphs out of the paint by blocking and altering numerous shots. He scored only three times from the field as Nuridiin was behind him all night, and teammates routinely were digging down from the perimeter to help defend when the ball went inside.
Greenforest closed the third quarter on a 13-3 run, scoring once on an uncontested layup out of a timeout when the Caliphs were slow out of the huddle, and then by holding for the final shot of the period for Celestine to hit a 3-pointer just before the buzzer for a 32-26 lead.
W.D. Mohammad remained patient on offense, however, running the baseline and using screens to free shooters.
Omar hit two treys in the fourth quarter before Muhammad’s game winner.
M.D. Mohammed (43) – Joel Nuridiin 4, Muhammad Hamilton 12, Jihad Hameen 6, Majid Omar 14, Yusuf Muhammad 7, Hasan Salaam 0.
Greenforest (42) – Faisal Abdulamik 3, Adam Ellis 0, Rashard Swain 3, John Agwuche 5, Justin Ravenel 5, Ugo Celestine 15, Tosin Mehinti 11, Willie Turner 0. Halftime: Greenforest 20, M.D. Mohammed 15.