Above: Who knew Gamal Smalley could sing? Read story to see what I’m talking about.
By Miguel A. Melendez Staff Writer
ARCADIA — What started out like a close basketball game the Muir High School boys basketball turned into a track meet in the third quarter.
The visiting Mustangs used their trademark swarming defense to create scoring in transition, going on a 20-3 run and never looking back to dispatch Arcadia 77-64 on Monday night in Pacific League action.
The latest result was nowhere near when the teams met in the league opener, Muir (19-1, 8-0) needing overtime period and 38 points from Jelani Mitchell to get past Arcadia (9-11, 2-6).
This time, Mitchell and the high-flying Mustangs showed their defensive prowess, limiting Arcadia to empty baskets on nine of 10 possessions and five turnovers during Muir’s offensive spurt that started with the Mustangs leading 36-33 with 6:58 left in the game.
“I didn’t know all of those numbers but I did think the guys played with a lot of energy in that third quarter,” Muir coach Gamal Smalley said. “That got us going with transition baskets off their turnovers.”
Muir’s speed proved overwhelming for Arcadia to handle, causing the Apaches’ offense to stall.
“We’ve had our last few games when we get pressed and we get into scrambling and not running our offense,” Arcadia coach Ben Cordeiro. “We start shooting one-pass shots instead of running our offense. We don’t play well when we’re not patient.”
Muir led 36-32 at the half but the Mustangs got it going on Nelson’s 3-pointer and a Mitchell bank shot on a pull-up jumper to make it 41-33. Arcadia’s Jeffrey Radzwill hit a 3-pointer in the Apaches’ lone basket during the long run. Nelson, Mitchell and Andre Frazier put on a show that looked more like a passing clinic, but it was their handcuffing defense coupled with unparalleled speed that put the game away with one quarter to go.
“It’s funny you mention that because I always ask the guys, ‘Are we a basketball team,'” Smalley said. “They go, ‘No, we’re a track team’ and that’s our philosophy. It’s no scret we try to run, run, run, run. During that little segment we got it going.”
Mitchell, who finished with a game-high 22 points, countered Arcadia’s 3-pointer with a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. His fadeaway jumper on the ensuing possession off an Apaches turnover made it 46-36 before Nelson made a steal and fastbreak layup with the defense trailing. Nelson, who sprained his right ankle just before the run started, finished with 14 points.
Arcadia’s Brian Taylor finished with a team-high 20 points and Radzwill added 19. But it’s becoming clear the Apaches have other obstacles to overcome.
“I justthink our team has some issues with attitudes and team comradarie,” Cordeiro said. “We’re not puling on the same direction. We have guys looking out for their own agendas and not thea team’s. That’s where we’re at right now.”
About the only thing that went wrong for Smalley was the banter he had back and forth with officials. By the time the fourth quarter came, with 3:19 left to be exact, all Smalley could do was make light of the situation, telling one official “Even Stevie Wonder can see that” before saranating a line from “Isn’t She Lovely.”
“But he told me to take that to American Idol,” said Smalley laughing. “It’s easy to laugh about it when you’re up.”