And the Mt. Zion junior shooting guard gave his team a huge lift off the bench in the Eagles’ 62-50 home win over rival Bremen in a Region 6-A Crossover contest, scoring five of his seven points in a flurry late in the third quarter to give MZ a lead it wouldn’t surrender the rest of the way.
With Mt. Zion trailing 35-32 and Eagle coach Steve Lee resting a handful of starters for the final minutes of the third quarter to keep them out of foul trouble, Henderson scored an old-fashioned three-point play, then knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Eagles (8-12) up 37-35, a lead that ultimately stretched to 40-35 going into the final eight minutes.
“That was so key. He went in and scored five points on two straight possessions for us. We were just worried about staying even or being just down one or two [going into the fourth]. Well, these guys are resting to play the last minutes with three fouls, and [Henderson] just stepped up huge by making plays,” Lee said.
Mt. Zion built as much as a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t put the game away due to its free-throw shooting. The Eagles went 1-of-10 down the stretch and missed eight in a row at one point before Parrish Germany knocked down a shot from the charity stripe with 34.5 seconds left.
Still, the Eagles did it on the defensive side Saturday, forcing 14 Bremen (6-13) turnovers in the second half, something Blue Devil coach Billy Pollard has grown tired of addressing this season.
“The effort’s there, but our mental effort needs to get better. That’s where the turnovers come in. Anybody that scouts us is going to press us. If you don’t learn how to handle pressure, then they’re going to figure that out,” Pollard said.
And after an emotional, 55-54 loss to rival Bowdon on Friday, the Blue Devils were showing the wear and tear of the weekend late Saturday.
“I don’t care what you say to your kids in the locker room, they’re still physically beat down and mentally a little bit from a game they think they should have won the night before. Whereas, we had North Cobb and got beat by 50. It is a difference, getting beat by one and 50,” Lee said in reference to his team’s 82-32 loss to No. 1 NCC on Friday.
Germany led all scorers with 22 points for Mt. Zion, followed by Nathan Bernhardt with 10 points and seven rebounds, Corey Loftin with nine points and nine rebounds, Nate Warren with eight points and 10 boards and Henderson with seven points. Freshman Matt Turner added six points.
Bremen point guard Trent McClure continued to have the hot hand for the Blue Devils on Saturday. After hitting 7-of-9 from downtown on Friday night at Bowdon, McClure was 6-of-9 from the field Saturday, including 4-of-7 from behind the arc, for a team-high 16 points. Jonah Stephens chipped in 11 points for Bremen — all in the first half — while Josh Johnson grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
Bremen girls 52, Mt. Zion 42: The Lady Blue Devils (14-4) showed the signs of a rivalry hangover from Friday night’s road win at Bowdon early against the Lady Eagles (12-11), but kicked it into high gear in the second half to turn a two-point halftime lead into a double-digit victory.
“Getting in late [Friday] and having to get up and come over here, neither one of them are easy teams to play. Big rivalries — and they’re always tough. Then having to travel, as well. I know it’s not far, but it’s not our home. So it’s always tough,” Bremen girls basketball coach Kathy Matthews said.
For MZ girls basketball coach Bill Bailey, there was a simple formula to why his team lost on Saturday.
“We missed too many lay-ups, missed too many free throws and then too many turnovers. That’s the bottom line,” Bailey said. “We came out and had our chances, but we missed too many shots right in front of the basket. I mean, wide open.”
Mt. Zion did nearly half of its scoring from the free-throw line, shooting 20-of-34 from the charity stripe while connecting on just 10 field goals.
Jordan Hill led Bremen with 21 points on five 3-pointers, while Jamia Johnson added 13 points. Hannah Wood paced MZ with 18 points.