The 17th-ranked Green Wave of Spingarn relied on two basic elements of winning basketball: clutch foul shooting and offensive rebounding to pull out a come-from-behind, 76-70 victory last night over host McKinley in an Interhigh League battle for second place.
Spingarn (15-3, 11-3 in the league) trailed most of the game, but caught the Trainers in the last two minutes, thanks to senior Ricardo Leonard's season-high 36 points. He scored 20 in the second half, mostly on second and third shots off the offensive boards.
A 6-foot-7, 220-pound center/forward, he made five of seven free throws down the stretch as the front line of Leonard, Tyrone Hickson and Eric Abraham wore down the smaller Trainers inside, forcing fouls.
"It was a matter of time before our big guys would wear them down," said Spingarn Coach Kenneth Howell. "We had determination because we were fighting for second place."
McKinley (11-7, 9-5), which has lost three of its last four, took a 25-17 lead as 6-4 forward Keith Jackson scored 10 of his 32 points. The Green Wave opened the second quarter with full-court zone pressure, holding McKinley scoreless for the first three minutes. Two jumpers and a free throw by Leonard and a jump shot by Brian Henderson closed the margin to 29-25.
But Jackson made two jumpers and a free throw. Two more free throws by Rufus Clark gave the Trainers a 40-29 lead at intermission.
With 6:04 left in the third quarter, McKinley center Jeffrey Powell committed his third foul, on a shot by Eric Abraham as Spingarn cut the deficit to 42-36. Leonard and Jackson exchanged baskets the rest of the quarter, which ended with McKinley ahead, 54-49.
Leonard began to work the offensive boards even more in the last quarter, turning four offensive rebounds into baskets.
"I just tried to stay low and move around the perimeter to get position for rebounds," he said. "They had several players try to box me out, but I was able to maneuver into position." He finished with 19 rebounds, 11 of them offensive.
He followed one of the offensive rebounds with a slam-dunk at the 2:06 mark to put Spingarn ahead, 66-65, a lead it never relinquished.
From then, two free throws by Abraham and Weldon Parham and one each by Leonard and Hickson held off McKinley's desparate run.
Jackson scored seven of McKinley's last 11 points, but missed a three-point shot with 43 seconds left.