Leroy "Truck" Fludd wasn't struggling in the Boys & Girls Kangaroos' big game against Jefferson, but he wasn't "Truckin'" either.
Hampered with fouls at different points throughout the game and activity lapses caused a debate between two spectators: Could he deliver in big games that mattered?
Emphatically yes, but the powerful forward waited until the last second to prove he could - literally. With one tick left on the clock in overtime, the 6'5" senior cleaned up a miss for the buzzer beating shot that wrapped up a classic Brooklyn AA battle and put a dangerous Jefferson Orange Wave team away for good, 86-84.
"If [Fludd] isn't aggressive, we don't win," said fellow senior and teammate, Bryce Jones, who drilled an NBA range trey to send the game into its first round of overtime. "It's all about being confident [when it's time to hit big shots] and that's what me and Leroy did."
In front of a home crowd that had its match in an equally rowdy Jefferson contingent, Boys fought to stay with the Orange Wave, who held a slim lead for much of the first half. With Fludd picking up two early fouls, Jefferson's furious defensive pressure and gritty guard play from junior, Jaquan Lynch, and sophomore, Patrick Brown (9 points, 6 assists) controlled the game. A 9-0 Jefferson run capped the first quarter and helped them maintain the lead for much of the second.
"My coaches told me to keep my head in the game, but I was frustrated with the two fouls," said Fludd, who brought bursts of energy for the 'Roos upon his re-insertion to the game, but never found a full-on groove in regulation. Lynch, however, found a very strong groove.
The steadily rising buzz of the 6'0" junior scoring guard can be attributed to games like these - he punished Boys & Girls from the perimeter throughout the evening for a game high 31 points. When he wasn't giving Jefferson a boost by nailing any one of his six three pointers when the 'Roos were in sniffing distance, he got to the rim and tallied points from the line. Extra efforts from sophomore guard, Mike Watson (11 points) and iron horse forward, Jermoine Faison (14 points, 10 rebounds) gave a foreshadowing of what's to come from an underclassman-laden Orange Wave squad. Boys & Girls' lone lead of the second quarter came on a trey from Jones (10 points), but Jefferson quickly regained control and carried a 39-34 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Slowly, the 'Roos began to find their footing in the third quarter. Trips to the charity stripe for Joel Angus (13 points), point guard Tyliek Kimbrough, and Fludd reinforced a burst of torrid shooting from Wesley Myers (14 points); Boys & Girls swung the game in their favor and had a 63-58 lead going into the fourth quarter. That's when Jefferson made another push.
It was none other than Lynch who tied the game at 70 with a three ball at the 3:00 mark, and for the next 2:59, the momentum leaned in Jefferson's direction. Boys & Girls had chances, but couldn't seize control. Angus had a chance to knot the affair at 72, but missed a free throw. Brown missed the front end of a one and one and the 'Roos grabbed the board, but they committed a turnover. Fludd had already picked up his fourth foul and a thunderous rejection from Ed Ogundeko only seemed to exacerbate Boys & Girls' struggles to get over the hump. The final wheel looked to be falling off when Myers' desperation shot missed its mark, but Jones preserved the Roos' chances with his magical trey to send the game into overtime. The home fans appreciated the shot - so much that they rushed the court and distracted Jefferson from advancing the ball with the modicum of time left on the clock.
"We couldn't advance the ball when [the Boys & Girls fans] ran on the court," said Jefferson Assistant Coach, Seldon Jefferson. "And they didn't put time back on the clock, but that isn't what decided the game."
Fludd was. With Brown giving Jefferson an 84-80 lead after scoring off a pick and roll, the jet quick and crafty Kimbrough (19 points) made it a two point game with the last of his numerous difficult finishes around the hoop. When he tried to repeat the feat with time running down and missed, Fludd was there to clean up the mess - in the nick of time.
"We can hit big shots," said Fludd (who finished with a team high 20 points), bluntly. ""This team has a lot of heart and a lot of confidence."
So does Jefferson, which is why the rematch on January 31st should be a doozy.
"Tomorrow, I'll be the first one in practice and the last one out," said Lynch when asked about the rivalry and upcoming rematch. "When we play at our house, we're gonna get that 'W'."
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