12/19/12 — Muhammad's running shot preserves Warriors' unblemished record

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Muhammad's running shot preserves Warriors' unblemished record

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on December 19, 2012 1:47 PM

An ugly, lucky win.

Eastern Wayne will certainly take it.

Nijah Muhammad's game-winning, running shot bounced around the rim and fell through, lifting the unbeaten Warriors to a 50-48, non-conference triumph over Southern Nash on Monday evening.

"The horseshoe is not running out of luck," laughed Eastern Wayne head coach Tyrone Wagner. "We play hard and this year, the girls have really dug deep. We've played a lot of close games, so they're used to it.

"They have the heart of a champion, now they have to get the mindset of a champion and they're getting there."

The Warriors (9-0 overall) have won four games by six points or less, including two in overtime this season. They swept the regular-season series from the Firebirds, who are 1-3 against Wayne County teams this winter.

But Southern Nash could easily be 2-2.

The Firebirds shot a miserable 16 of 35 at the free throw line, including a 7 for 17 effort in the final period. Had they converted those shots, Muhammad's field goal -- just her second of the game -- could have been a mute point.

Eastern Wayne led 33-29 after three quarters and stretched its advantage to 40-31 early in the fourth.

Southern Nash (3-5) pulled to within 40-34 and forced a turnover near midcourt. Senior guard Kadijah Manning picked up the loose ball, drew the foul against the Warriors' Shontel Monk, who slapped the bleachers in disgust. Her action resulted in a technical foul and her departure from the contest.

Manning missed both free throws and Danielle Noland managed to sink just one of two technical foul shots to make it 40-35. Noland's old-fashioned three-point play trimmed the margin to 42-38 and the Warriors pushed their lead back to 48-40 with about a minute remaining in regulation.

The Firebirds turned two turnovers into baskets and Manning's 3-pointer off an inbounds screen play knotted the game at 48-48 with 10 seconds to go. Manning led all scorers with 19 points.

"We had some careless turnovers," Wagner said. "Tianna (Christopher) got lazy (and) the girl came through a screen."

Eastern Wayne put the ball in play, Muhammad raced down court and took a shot while blanketed by three Firebird defenders. The ball teasingly hit the back of the rim and gently rolled through the net with 1.8 seconds to go.

"We were on pins and needles there," Wagner said. "I'm glad she made the shot ... a big-time shot for her."

Christopher led Eastern Wayne with 14 points.

The teams combined to shoot 31 of 70 from the free throw line.