Andrew Koob (@AndrewKoob)
Nazeer Bostick hadn’t played or practiced since February 7 because of a groin injury.
During that time, the Math, Civics & Sciences sophomore wing has watched his Mighty Elephants fall in the Public League playoffs to eventual champion Martin Luther King and then cruise through two state playoff games.
With some doubting the Elephants in their quarterfinal matchup against the Church Farm Griffins, it was time for Bostick to make his comeback.
“I really wanted to play in the Final Four or the championship, but before the game I saw something online that said Church Farm was going to win by three,” Bostick said. “I wasn’t going to let that happen. I’m playing tonight.”
Mission accomplished, as Bostick made key fourth quarter plays and MCS extended their season into the A semifinals with a 47-46 victory.
The sophomore only scored three points, but kept making play after play. A block in the second quarter that led to a layup when the Elephants needed to stop a run. A half-court assist to a wide-open teammate in the final minutes of the game.
But the biggest came off of the front end of a one-and-one in a two-point game. Donovan Barnes missed a free throw with 43 seconds left in the game but Bostick was able to grab the offensive rebound and gave the ball to one of the Elephants’ best free throw shooters in guard Tyrese Hester.
“Before he shot it, I told myself ‘I’m getting this rebound’,” Bostick said. “Anytime I’m playing basketball, I’m hustling. I’m just playing basketball and trying to get that victory.”
Bostick’s early comeback was unexpected but, even with his doctors telling him otherwise, the guard knew he had to suit up for his team.
“I was [supposed to miss more time] but I went against my doctor’s orders,” Bostick said. “I had to get my team the win. He told me not to play, I told him I couldn’t lose.They kept saying I might make it worse, but I took that chance. I had three pairs of compression shorts.”
“He’s a great player,” assistant coach Lonnie Diggs, who filled in for head coach Dan Jackson who attended a funeral, added. “He hasn’t even practiced in a whole month. He wanted to be out here with his team today. He knew it would be a tough game, he knew that we needed him and he came up big when we needed it.”
In the first half, MCS didn’t have an answer defensively for the Griffin duo of Aondofa Anyam and Tyler Ofrey. The two combined to score all of the Griffins’ 25 points in the first half and were the main reasons why the Elephants found themselves in a 9-2 hole to start the game and a 25-18 deficit at the half.
“So far in the state playoffs, we really haven’t been challenged the first two games,” Diggs said. “We kind of came in with the mindset that it would go the same way so we started out a little slow. They had a good game plan. They slowed us down, kept us out of transition. They did that for 28, 29 minutes but we had a nice spurt in the fourth quarter that put us over the top.”
“He was scoring and getting into the lane,” Bostick said of Anyam, who scored a game-high 20 points, 16 in the first half. “I just tried to stop him from getting in the lane and that’s what I was able to do.”
Bostick wasn’t the only Elephant to make big plays, especially in the second half. Guard Samir Doughty scored a team-high 16 points, 10 in the final 16 minutes, while center Mike Watkins finished with 13 points and six blocks.
That second half, which featured a 14-7 third quarter run that brought MCS back from a nine-point deficit, came because of the Elephants’ effort on defense.
“I think it was the intensity on defense,” Diggs said. “Nazeer Bostick, Samir Doughty, Donovan Barnes, they all really dug down on defense and got in their man’s chest. We forced a couple of good turnovers and it led to some easy buckets.”
The Elephants’ focus now shifts to the A semifinals, where the undefeated St. John Neumann Golden Knights await after a 78-68 win over New Hope Academy. But, since their Public League semifinal loss to King, Diggs has seen a new sense of urgency in his team.
“Since we lost in the Public League playoffs, this team has been hungry,” Diggs said. “This is all we have right now and a shot at redemption is winning the state championship and we’re going to give it our all.”