Douglas Freeman led roughly two minutes of Tuesday night’s battle with visiting Thomas Jefferson. As it turned out, they were the correct two minutes.
Caleb Kenney’s driving basket gave the Rebels their first lead with 2:14 to play, and Christian Smith hit a layup with 43 seconds left to put Freeman ahead for good in a 62-58 thriller.
Smith’s layup gave Douglas Freeman (16-6) a 60-58 advantage.
Despite a turnover on its ensuing possession, Thomas Jefferson (13-9) had a final chance to even the score or take the lead. Teon Tiller drove to the basket with 10 seconds remaining and got a layup on the backboard, but the ball rolled off the rim and into the Rebels’ possession.
Kenney, who was saddled with foul trouble most of the game, hit two free throws for the final score.
The Vikings used half-, three-quarters and full-court traps to make the Rebels uncomfortable early in the game. Freeman committed nine first-quarter turnovers against the stifling defense, allowing Thomas Jefferson to jump out to a 15-9 lead at the end of the first period.
The Vikings began the second quarter on an 11-0 run and led 31-21 at halftime. Mohammed Mahadi was the beneficiary on offense, as he scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in first 16 minutes of play.
“Our guys were in celebration mode in the first half, being senior night. We were playing loose, but not disciplined,” Douglas Freeman coach Chapin George said. “In the second half, we turned the ball over less. We just got tougher. We’ve got guys that no matter the deficit believe we’re going to win the game.”
But in the second half, Freeman calmed down against the TJ trap. The Rebels started the half on an 11-1 run to tie the score at 32 with 6:08 remaining in the third quarter. The Vikings answered with a 13-4 spurt, paced by 8 points from Mahadi, and led 48-43 going into the final quarter.
Freeman was boosted in the fourth quarter by Kenney, who played the period with four fouls. The sophomore big man provided tough defense against TJ’s driving guards.
As a team, the Rebels locked down as well. TJ was held to two field goals in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, the home team clawed back into the game. Trailing by 5 with 4:32 to play, the Rebels used a 7-1 spurt that ended with Kenney’s running basket with 2:14 to play and a 57-56 lead. A pair of Orlando Davis free throws gave the Vikings the lead back with 1:30 left, but Smith sank a free throw, then made the game-winning basket on the following possession.
Five players scored in double figures for Freeman, led by Muktar Abudlkadir with 15 points. Smith scored 12 points for the Rebels, and Kenney, Omari DeVeaux and Michael Fortune each had 10.
Tiller added 14 points for the Vikings.
THOMAS JEFFERSON — Teon Tiller 14, Jamel Epps 3, Elijah Mitchell 8, Mohamed Mahadi 25, Orlando Davis 8.
DOUGLAS FREEMAN — Michael Fortune 10, Mouktar Abdulkadir 15, Caleb Kenney 10, Christian Smith 12, Niquion Moore 2, Omari DeVeaux 10, Robert Steele 3.
Thomas Jefferson 15 16 17 10 — 58
Douglas Freeman 9 12 22 19 — 62
3-point goals: — TJ: Jamel Epps 1, Mohamed Mahadi 2 DF: Michael Fortune 1, Mouktar Abdulkadir 1, Caleb Kenney 1, Omari DeVeaux 2, Robert Steele 1.