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EC Central hangs on to beat Mantis, Lowell
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EC Central hangs on to beat Mantis, Lowell

From the Basketball Recap: Catch up on all of last night's excitement here! series
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Chris Okeke

EC Central’s Chris Okeke scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds.

LOWELL — EC Central needed a concerted effort to overcome a super performance from Lowell’s Christopher Mantis, and it got it.

Mantis poured in a game-high 35 points and grabbed five rebounds but the Red Devils (9-11) couldn't complete a comeback in a 55-53 loss.

“He can definitely shoot, so I told my teammates to stay up on him,” said Chris Okeke, EC Central's 6-foot-8 center. “We had to lock up, especially when the time was closing in toward the end. I told ‘em, ‘Just keep your hands up.’ I had to guard the middle."

After Lowell edged in front 51-50, a basket by Dominic Ford and a 3-pointer from James Morgan put the Cardinals up 55-51.

Two free throws by Mantis cut the deficit to 55-53 with 2:53 left. Neither scored again. In the waning seconds, Lowell’s Kyler Newcom missed a runner from the side and Cayden Vasko’s tip-in rolled off the rim as time expired.

“We had a couple good looks,” Lowell coach Joe Delgado said. “... Our kids fought until the end, never gave up and put themselves in a position to tie it up.”

Three Cardinals scored in double figures in a needed bounce-back game 

“A game we had earlier this week we didn’t do so well, so coming back we wanted to keep our composure, keep our mental toughness and stick it out and try to get a win,” said Jalen Garrett, a reserve guard who scored seven points.

EC Central was coming off its worst loss of the season — 89-48 loss to Lake Central on Tuesday.

“We lost to Lake Central pretty bad by 41, gave up 44 points to one kid, and guys were quite discouraged,” EC Central coach Marcus Jefferson said. “I thought some of the guys wanted to quit. … It’s kind of daunting knowing how some of these guys respond to adversity. Somehow we were able to find a group of guys to pull together and become victorious. I’m satisfied with that.”

Ford led the Cardinals with 15 points, while Okeke added 14 points and six rebounds and Morgan scored 11 points off the bench.

Leading by just one point at the half, EC Central (8-10) opened the third quarter with an 8-1 run to take a 38-30 lead. The game was tied at 46 after three quarters, and then both defenses stepped up. The teams combined for just 16 points in the fourth quarter.

“We had to defend the middle and protect the rim,” Okeke said.

EC Central led 21-14 after one quarter. The lead changed hands three times, and there were two ties for the rest of the quarter.

The Cardinals hope to keep the momentum going when they travels to Lighthouse on Wednesday.

“In the beginning of the season we didn’t know who we were,” Okeke said. “We had a hard time finding out who the team was. Now that we keep playing games, we’re getting better and know who are.”

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