The Memphis Hustle Wednesday night found a way to right a sinking ship and in overtime shoot down the Stars of Salt Lake City 122-119 at the Landers Center in Southaven.
It was an important win for the Hustle, coming back from the mandated break with last weekend’s NBA All-Star game and the first game back from a disheartening Feb. 13 loss at home to Iowa 136-116.
The victory came in the first of four meetings Memphis will have with Salt Lake City before the season ends and the Stars are currently the main challenger to the Hustle’s hopes of making the postseason NBA G League playoffs.
The three division champions and the next three teams in the conference standings regardless of division make the playoffs. Memphis moved to 21-17 for the season and holds the last playoff spot as of Thursday morning. Salt Lake City, at 19-19, is in seventh place, two games behind the Hustle for the last spot.
Dusty Hannahs came off the bench to lead the Hustle with 25 points, followed by Julian Washburn’s 18 points. They were among six players scoring in double figures and Tarik Phillip contributed a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Washburn was inserted into the starting lineup as Memphis was playing without Kyle Casey, who is currently playing with the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team.
Memphis won by erasing an 18-point Salt Lake City lead and a 92-78 Hustle deficit after three quarters.
However, the Hustle charged back late in the game and forced overtime at 111-111 thanks to a big three-point shot followed quickly by another basket by former Ole Miss standout Markel Crawford.
“They had us befuddled for a large part of the game, but we did a better job in the second half of handling their aggressiveness,” said Hustle coach Brad Jones afterward. “It was somewhat embarrassing at times, but our guys figured it out and showed some resiliency. Our players get all the credit. It could have been easy to lay down, but they didn’t.”
The Hustle went on a 20-5 run in the final five minutes to regain a lead it earlier had in the second quarter. Crawford then spurred an eight point run to tie the game before Washburn scored a three-pointer to give Memphis the lead.
“Somebody had to score,” Crawford said. “Coach called my number and we just made plays. I was ready for it. I’ve been in a bit of a slump and I’ve been playing in spurts. I need to be more consistent but this spurt came at the right time.”
The Hustle would eventually lead 111-107 at the 1:46 mark, but the Stars held Memphis scoreless the rest of the way to force overtime.
Utah Jazz two-way player Tyler Cavanaugh led their efforts with 25 points and a game-high 15 rebounds for the Stars.
The Hustle face the Long Island Nets in a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Central time at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The team returns to Landers Center on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. to take on Western Conference contender Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the third installment of Dog Days of Winter, where dogs are invited to join fans at the game.
TROJANS FALL, PLAYOFFS CONTINUE: The Northpoint Christian boys basketball team dropped its TSSAA Division II-A state playoff game to Knoxville Grace Christian, Tenn. Wednesday night 48-41, ending the Northpoint season at 23-7.
Meanwhile, the Northpoint girls can again reach that state’s Final Four tournament with a quarterfinal victory at Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tennessee Friday night. The winner will play in the state semifinals on Friday, March 1.
DeSoto County public schools remaining in the MHSAA state playoffs continue play this weekend.
Southaven and Hernando are the two county 6A schools boys' teams remaining. Southaven must travel to Starkville for its second round contest Saturday, while Hernando will host Murrah Saturday as part of a playoff doubleheader. The Hernando-Murrah girls will play at 5 p.m., followed by the boys’ contest. Winners will move into the state quarterfinals on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Center Hill and Olive Branch remain alive in the boys’ 5A playoffs, with Center Hill to host Neshoba Central Saturday while Olive Branch travels to Holmes County Central.
Girls’ MHSAA playoffs, in addition to the Saturday match-up between Murrah and Hernando, will have Friday pairings between Horn Lake at Starkville in 6A and Olive Branch hosting Holmes County Central in 5A.
CHIEFS FALL IN MAIS PLAYOFFS: Both Magnolia Heights School basketball teams stumbled in the AAAA-Division II MAIS state playoffs on Wednesday. The Chiefs lost to Hartfield Academy 74-57 and the Lady Chiefs dropped a 55-25 result to East Rankin. Both losses ended the season for the Senatobia-based private school.
BOYETTE CONSIDERED FOR FLORIDA JOB: With success comes more attention and that’s apparently what has happened for Horn Lake football coach Brad Boyette. The Northwest Florida Daily News reported Wednesday the Eagles’ coach is one of seven finalists for the head football coach and athletic director’s position at Niceville High School, Florida, replacing John Hicks, who is leaving after 18 years at the school. Boyette, a 25-year coaching veteran, led the Eagles to a perfect 15-0 record this season and MHSAA 6A state championship. Interviews with the finalists were scheduled for Thursday in Florida.
Of note, the school’s mascot is also the Eagle.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.