Garland Owens has always been able to jump high.
“It’s God-given,” he said.
It’s also been a useful skill since Owens, sixth-ranked Magruder’s senior starting forward, is generously listed at 6 feet 5 and his usual home during games is right under the basket.
But this summer, Owens, for the first time in his life, worked out his legs almost three times a week to build up his strength by tying a harness to his body and jumping onto a box. It added explosiveness to his already physical style of play, which was on display in Tuesday night’s 64-45 win over No. 14 Eleanor Roosevelt at the Roberts Oxygen Holiday Classic at Springbrook.
Against the size of Eleanor Roosevelt (5-2), Magruder needed strength in the post to go along with its sharp shooting and quick passing. Behind 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots from Owens, the Colonels (6-1) got just that.
“It was something I needed to do,” he said. “And I needed to focus on boxing out more and keep people away from the basket to allow me and my teammates to get the rebounds.”
Behind an offense that moved and shot the ball well, the Colonels jumped out to a 26-6 first-quarter lead against the Raiders. But once Eleanor Roosevelt settled in, its stingy defense caused trouble.
Then, after two three-pointers by Nick Griffin (11 points) and the physical play of Owens, Magruder began to pull away. Owens scored eight points from then on, including two on a crowd-rousing, two-handed dunk in the fourth quarter that showed off his athleticism.
“He’s about 6-4 and a half but he plays like he’s 6-8, 6-9,” said Magruder Coach Dan Harwood.
Added Griffin, who is three inches shorter than his teammate: “He’s been playing big his whole life.”
In the tournament’s second game, No. 10 Springbrook outlasted Gwynn Park, 61-59, on its home court. The Blue Devils (6-1) commanded the first two quarters with its size and rebounding, building a comfortable 31-16 halftime lead.
The Yellow Jackets (4-3), however, turned to a pressure defense that trimmed the deficit to 38-37 on a jump hook by senior center Marcel Boyd (14 points, 10 rebounds) with 7 minutes 23 seconds to play.
“Coach brought up a couple of plays to see how we can get open lanes on the trap and the guards driving to the hole freed me up to the basket,” he said.