It’s been an up and down rookie season for Wayne Martin, but on Saturday he showed off why he could be one of the Northeast Conference’s best as he lead the St. Francis Terriers to a 73-72 overtime victory against Wagner in Brooklyn Heights.
Martin finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks. Five of those blocks came during overtime as he put on an impressive display of defense. It was his layup that put the Terriers up by one with 24 seconds left that eventually won the game.
“The play wasn’t designed for him, he made a play on his own,” Terriers coach Glenn Braica said. We tried to get the play to Jalen (Cannon) in the post. We tried to get Ben (Mockford) off a stagger. He wound up with the ball late on the shot clock and he drove it, he scored. It was a good player making a play.”
Martin got off to a hot start this season with big contributions on a nightly basis, but once December rolled around he started to struggle and his playing time was cut back a little bit. He played just eight minutes the game before this one against Sacred Heart and hadn’t scored at least 10 points since Dec. 1.
“It’s been hard,” Martin said of his freshman season. “I think I’m going to play every day, but I’m not. Sometimes it’s the matchups. If they play four guards and one big, I’m not going to be able to play much in the game if I can’t guard. That’s the NEC.”
The Terriers came out strong in this game as they established a 16-8 lead early on. That’s when Wagner put the breaks on the Terriers’ offense as they clogged up the paint and kept Ben Mockford quiet on the perimeter. Suddenly that eight-point lead turned into an eight-point deficit going into halftime.
“Give them credit,” Braica said. “They mixed it up and played a little zone. They did a good job of taking Cannon and Mockford out of the game early. So I give them a lot of credit. They started hitting some tough shots and then we started letting our defense dictate our offense. We didn’t guard very well at the end of the first half.”
Jalen Cannon finally got hot in the second half. He hit a free throw early to get himself going and followed that up with a pair of layups to cut the lead to three. Martin hit a layup and then Cannon fired off a three that tied it at 40-40 with 13:48 to play. He had 12 points and five rebounds in the second half.
The Terriers had a chance to avoid overtime as they had possession of the ball with the game tied and 11 seconds left. However, Mockford, who was 1-for-11 shooting on the night, missed a three and Sheldon Hagigal missed a layup at the buzzer.
Hagigal got them started in overtime by hitting a pair of free throws. Cannon had a big dunk to go ahead with 3:09 left , but it was Martin’s layup with 24 seconds left that put them ahead for good. Martin’s two blocks in the final 10 seconds made sure that lead was safe.
“He’s learning, he’s a freshman,” Braica said of Martin. “We talk to him everyday about playing hard, about focusing. He’s a tremendously talented kid and today the talent and the effort were the same and the focus was there. When that happens we see the results. I thought what happened was he got a basket early and it got him going. With young guys sometimes you need that.”