Marcus overcomes slow start to pull out win

HALTOM CITY, Texas -- The always-precise machine that is the Flower Mound Marcus basketball team hit a kink in the system Wednesday.

Marcus had to overcome a 23-22 halftime deficit against Justin Northwest to pull out a 45-38 win and advance in the winners bracket of the Whataburger Tournament.

Marcus experienced a Christmas break hangover and, for the first time in a long time, did not come to the game ready to excel, coach Danny Henderson said.

It is a problem Henderson has little experience encountering with this team.

“I’ve been with them 98 games, I think, and I’m going to say they’ve been ready to play 94 times," Henderson said. "They’ve been amazing in that respect and that’s the only reason I’m not going ballistic on them. They’ve built up a big bank account in that regard."

Marcus was out-hustled by Northwest in the first quarter but got a kick-start in the second quarter when Marcus Smart came off the bench and entered the game for the first time. Smart and A.J. Luckey sat out the first quarter for arriving 17 minutes late to a practice Tuesday before the tournament.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” Henderson said. “He and A.J. have never been late to anything, but they were late and there is going to be discipline. They overslept.”

Marcus’ big three -- Smart, Forte and Nick Banyard -- accounted for just 30 points, well below the average for the trio. However, it still accounted for 67 percent of Marcus’ offense in the low-scoring affair.

Marcus’ defense came up big in the third quarter, holding Northwest to just two points while the offense struggled to net six points of its own. Marcus outscored Northwest 17-13 in the fourth to salvage the win.

“Our defense was phenomenal in the third quarter and overall,” Henderson said. “They [Northwest] got 38 points and they had two in the third quarter. Defense wasn’t the problem.”

Henderson wasn't too upset with his team’s performance after the game because he said he also was not as prepared as he could have been for the opening-round game.

Banyard, who hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter, was not given an opportunity to spot up again later in the game. Henderson instead tried to get him backdoor lobs, having him slash to the basket on the opposite side of the court from the ball. He even went so far as to apologize to Banyard for the mistake in the middle of his postgame interview.

The defending 5A state champion and No. 4 team in the nation is held to a standard of playing near-perfect basketball in every outing, but it is sometimes easy to forget about the attention Marcus receives, Smart said.

“It is a little bit until teams come out and [start] doing stuff that you weren’t expecting them to do, that you know they could do, but they’re doing everything that you’ve been told they can do,” Smart said “It brings you back to reality and you remember the name on your jersey.”

In the end, Marcus made the adjustments necessary to compensate for a slow start and a frigid offense and move into the winners bracket to take on Richland at 11 a.m. Thursday. Marcus can't afford another slow start against Richland's high-speed, up-tempo offense.

“Their floor-spacing creates a lot of problems for any defense,” Henderson said. “We’re going to have to be on top of our game. We’re going to have to be ready tomorrow.”

For Smart, Henderson and all of the Marcus squad, Wednesday’s game appears to be a thing of the past and Henderson learned that even the most reliable machines break down every once and a while.

“You start thinking they're machines and superhuman or something and they're not -- they're kids. They have girlfriends, they have Christmas and ate too much turkey or something,” Henderson said with a chuckle.