FM Marcus knocks off nation's No. 4 hoops team

LEWISVILLE, Texas -- Flower Mound Marcus came up with the big shots when they were needed most to pull out a 42-40 win over Montrose Christian (Md.), the No. 4 team in the nation, on Thursday night in front of a packed house at Lewisville High School.

Marcus point guard and shooting standout Phil Forte was ice cold at the start of the game that was nationally televised on ESPN, but his first bucket was a big one.

Forte drilled a momentum-shifting 3-pointer as time expired in the first half to cut his team's deficit to 20-19.

Forte continued the trend in the second half, hitting game-turning 3-pointers midway through the third and fourth quarters. Forte’s shot from long distance in the fourth gave Marcus a 39-38 lead with just minutes to play. Nick Banyard took a cue from Forte and nailed the game-winning 3-pointer with just under a minute left.

“As long as I’ve been playing with Phil, he’s been known to come around in clutch situations,” Marcus standout Marcus Smart said. “He needs that encouragement from his teammates and that’s what we did -- we picked him up and he came out in the second half and hit clutch shots.”

Smart, the No. 11 recruit from the class of 2012, did his part, throwing down a one-handed slam to pump up the crowd in the third quarter and scoring a team-high 15 points to help offset Forte’s slow start.

“My teammates did a great job picking me up when I was down and missing,” Forte said. “My teammates believed in me, and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have had the night I had.”

The surprise of the night may have been how the defenses stood out in a game billed as a matchup between two national offensive powerhouses.

Both teams were held to under 10 points in the first quarter and Montrose was just able to reach 20 points before the first-half buzzer in a clean game that didn’t feature many fouls.

“When two teams are that good defensively, you won’t have a lot of fouls,” Marcus coach Danny Henderson said. “Normally fouls are caused by poor defense, and they are so good defensively -- and I’d like to think we are too.”

Marcus may have also gotten a boost from its fans, who sold the game out hours before the opening tip. Crowded together behind one of the baskets, the red-clad mob put on a cheering and chanting display typically reserved only for football around North Texas.

“I hate to say it, but we’ve gotten spoiled,” Forte said. “Our fans are great, especially in big games like this. They always come up big and support us. We feed off the crowd. And ever since I’ve been here we’ve had a great student body, and it’s just amazing to play in front of that crowd.”

The crowd was never louder than when the Marcus defense made one final stop as time expired, preserving a huge win on a national stage.

“We knew coming in here that we had to stop them because of who they were, averaging in the high 80s, 90s and 100 points,” Smart said. “We knew coming in that if we played our defense through the game we could beat them.”