IRVING, Texas -- At 5-foot-7 and 145 pounds, Irving Nimitz guard Josh Moore does not exactly strike fear in opponents.
But behind his black-framed Clark Kent glasses is a relentless, tireless defensive specialist with fast hands guaranteed to make opposing ball handlers look silly a half-dozen times every game.
It was a steal by Moore with his team leading by three points with 15 seconds remaining that proved to be the decisive play in Nimitz’ 61-55 victory over Irving MacArthur in a key District 6-5A contest Tuesday night at Viking Gym.
Following a Nimitz turnover at mid-court, MacArthur’s Devonte Willis was dribbling down the left side of the floor, no doubt sizing up a 3-pointer that would force overtime.
In a flash, Moore came from the other direction and took the ball away. The steal led to Moore's clinching free throw with 6.2 seconds remaining.
“I just have an instinct, I guess,’’ Moore said. “It comes natural for me. I’ve been doing it since I was young. When big guys bring it down, that’s when I go up.’’
Twice in the fourth quarter, Moore uncharacteristically missed from the free throw line. That just made him more determined to win the ball back.
“I don’t usually miss free throws so I had to go get it,’’ said Moore, who finished with six points, seven rebounds and at least a half-dozen steals.
Nimitz first-year coach Joel Donalson said he catches himself on the bench worrying about how he’ll replace Moore after he graduates this spring.
“He’s one of the toughest kids I’ve coached,’’ Donalson said. “He works just as hard in practice every day as he plays in a game. His toughness is the kind a coach might see once in a lifetime. The other team can never relax when they have the ball if Josh is around. ’’
MacArthur coach Toby Martin said Moore is a true point guard because he is defensive minded and only takes open shots on offense. “He has a big impact on the game,’’ Martin said.
With the win, Nimitz (14-13) moved into solo possession of third place in District 6-5A with an 8-6 record and two games remaining.
“We had to have this one,’’ said Donalson. “This was huge. I’m so happy our players and fans are getting to be a part of this kind of success.’’
MacArthur (13-15) fell to fourth in 6-5A with a 7-7 record.
Offensively, Nimitz relied on 6-1 junior Israel Omigie (22 points) and 6-3 senior Trey Baldwin (18) to do the heavy lifting.
MacArthur’s 1-for-10 shooting and four turnovers in the third quarter put the Cardinals in a 15-point hole to start the fourth period, one that 6-5 junior Tavarius Shine helped to close when he scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the final eight minutes. Shine’s 13 rebounds was a game-best.
“I thought we came out flat and played too much at Nimitz’s pace,’’ said Martin. “Early in the game, we didn’t commit to defense. Offensively, we’re much better when we take the ball to the basket and that’s what we did in the fourth quarter.’’
MacArthur’s last two games are against the teams immediately below in the standings, at home against Grapevine (6-8) on Friday and at Euless Trinity (7-8) on Tuesday.
Nimitz concludes with a visit to 6-5A leader Richland on Friday followed by a home game against Irving on Tuesday.
GIRLS: Irving MacArthur 77, Irving Nimitz 12:
Alexis Jones scored 14 of her game-high 22 points in the first quarter for a win that capped MacArthur’s second straight 16-0 record in District 6-5A.
MacArthur stretched its streak of consecutive district wins to 38.
“We’ve just had such a great chemistry with our kids,’’ said MacArthur coach Suzie Oelschlegel. “They have a love for the game that you just can’t coach or teach.’’
Defending state champion MacArthur (31-2), No. 1 in ESPNDallas.com's Class 5A Top 10, begins its title defense against Mansfield in a bi-district playoff at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Arlington Lamar.