Shareef Smith Smooth Under Pressure
Spartan Guard Hits Game Winning Three Pointer
By: Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: @TylerZonESPN
The shot may not have been a buzzer beater right at the horn to end the game, but Madison Memorial guard Shareef Smith’s go ahead three pointer with ten seconds remaining in the game held all the same excitement as the Spartans handed the Sun Prairie Cardinals the teams first loss on the season.
In a roller coaster and whirlwind of a contest that saw two players, one from each team, score over 25 points and dominate the opposition, it was a roll player that made the games most important shot.
The Spartans edged out the Cardinals 75-74 in tonight's Big 8 Conference Game of the Week thanks to a “nothing but net” three point shot by Smith on a beautifully timed kick out pass from fellow senior guard Julian Walters.
“You know, I actually had a dream last night that this game was going to come down to the wire,” said Smith with childlike excitement. “I didn’t know who it was going to be that would make that shot and score the bucket but thankfully it was me.”
Tonight’s contest was essentially a one side affair for much of the game due to two of the best players in the Big 8. Cardinal guards Nick Fuller, who finished the game with 27 points and seven rebounds along with four steals, and Nick Noskowiak who added 18 more points along with five assists and four steals of his own.
“Nick squared, man, we knew that they were going to score, there is a reason they are going to get their educations payed for some day,” said Memorial head coach Steve Collins. “It just killed us the amount of second chance opportunities we gave them early on and that really was the reason they killed us so much in this game.”
For much of the first half, Madison Memorial trailed Sun Prairie on average by around eight points and faced a 14 point deficit at the half thanks to Fuller’s 18 points by the break and Noskowiak’s 10 points. The Cardinals led the Spartans 43-29 going into the locker room and the game looked all but over.
“I am just so proud of my guys for not giving up at any point,” said Collins. “Down 14 at half to two D-I college basketball recruits, its always tough to stay in it but I have to give it up to my players.”
Madison Memorial would storm back in the third quarter however with an 11-4 run right out of halftime led by senior guard Jester Weah, who scored 17 of his game high 29 points in the quarter.
“I mean that quarter was huge for us, trailing at half we all knew we needed to get back in the game some how,” said Weah. “I was just feeling it and some of the rebounds I got turned right into easy points on put backs.”
Weah also brought in 13 rebounds and had three blocks in the contest as well and started the night with a thunderous dunk that resulted in the games first points.
“What didn’t (Weah) do tonight?” said Collins. “He was just huge for us, a sensational player and athlete that can do everything you ask of him.”
Entering the fourth quarter, Sun Prairie held a narrow five point lead at 57-52 and still had the momentum going into the final eight minutes thanks to two Fuller baskets right before the third quarter buzzer.
Reggie Roemer quickly ended that momentum when he hit a three pointer to start off the fourth for the Spartans and Walters would add two more three’s of his own later in the quarter to tie the game at 67-67 with 3:30 left to play.
After a Sun Prairie timeout, Fuller responded with a three of his own to give the Cardinals a three point lead with just over three minutes left on the clock.
Andrew Walls punched back with yet another Spartan three pointer to once again tie the game at 70-70. On the Next Cardinal possession, Noskowiak hit a fade away jumper at the top of the key to give the Cardinals a two point lead.
Moments later, Fuller hit two key free throws to put the Cardinals up 74-72 with :19.2 seconds left on the clock.
After Memorial broke the huddle after a time out, Walters dribbled some time off the clock and then finally started to drive towards the hoop with just over :12 seconds remaining where he found Smith sitting wide open on the three point line where he dealt the fatale blow to the Cardinals with his game winning three pointer.
“If we can’t lean on each other when its tough and we are down then we ain’t got nothing,” said Walters. “We know we are not the strongest or the best Memorial team to ever put on these uniforms so when we were down I just told everybody we have have to have faith. So when penetrated I saw that (the Sun Prairie defense) collapsed down on me and I kicked it out to (Smith) and I knew he was going to make that shot.”
The Cardinals final possession after the made three by Smith ended in a turnover and gave Sun Prairie the teams first loss of the season.
The Spartans remain undefeated and atop the Big 8 Conference standings after tonight’s thrilling victory against another elite conference foe.
“The undefeated thing is what you guys in the media worry about, quite honestly I’m just always worried about that next game,” said Collins jokingly. “That is as good of a basketball team there is in the state and I am just so proud of our guys to come away with the victory here tonight. You know, there was a reason the Germantown basketball coach was here tonight and that was not to watch us, it was to watch them.”
It will be another quick turnaround for both teams after tonight. The Spartans will play Janesville Craig on Saturday night at home and the Cardinals will travel to Middleton to take on the Cardinals in a bird-on-bird crime game on Saturday night as well.
By: Tyler Zavadsky Twitter: @TylerZonESPN
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