Basketball fans, coaches and players understand what will happen when Wenonah is on the schedule: Justin Coleman is going to be hard to stop. He also is going to will his team to victory.
The Alabama signee was spectacular making plays when the Dragons needed it most, especially in the third quarter. His 30-foot jumper at the buzzer gave Wenonah the confidence it needed to hold on for an 85-80 win in Saturday’s third game of the Nike Explosion at Wheeler High.
Coleman finished the day with a game-high 41 points. His stat line also included six assists, five rebounds and four steals. However, his jumper to end the third quarter was all the Dragons needed to believe it could win.
“He kept us in it, that’s what he does,” Wenonah coach Cedric Lane said. “The three-pointer gave us a lot of momentum.”
Through most of the third, the Dragons (5-0) rode Coleman’s hot-hand. The pint size guard went on an 11-0 run as Norcross ran defenders at him from every angle. Coleman just got in a groove that had everyone in attendance anticipating the next move.
When he nailed the three-pointer to end the period, he turned away from the basket and yelled in relief. Wenonah had some bounce going into the huddle despite trailing 69-68. Coleman scored 22 points in the eight-minute quarter. His numbers on the night were 10-of-18 from the field, 6-of-14 from three-point range and 14-for-14 from the free throw line. The most impressive thing about his performance is being able to score despite being the focal point of the Blue Devils (2-3) game plan.
“The lesson we learned is we cannot let anyone go on a mini run,” said Norcross coach Jessie McMillian, who acknowledged that Coleman may have only had three open looks all night. “I think our guys felt that they couldn’t do anything about it.
“We have to use it as a lesson.”
One lesson the Blue Devils are learning is that William Gibbons is becoming a solid perimeter threat. The unsigned senior scored a team-high 22 points. Harvard signee Andre Chatfield had 15 points along with junior Ricky Madison, who also pulled down eight rebounds. Khalen Pinkett added 13 points.
This was good balance scoring but it could not counter the Dragons contributors. Unsigned senior Cedric McGunnis and junior Juquan Nelson scored 10 points apiece. William Ellington chipped in with nine points.
On the year, Coleman is averaging 35 points a game for the three-time Class 5A state champions.
“We had guys step up for us in the second half,” Lane said. “But Justin takes over when he needs to.”
That is evident.