Photography by Gary Lloyd McCullough.

Photography by Gary Lloyd McCullough.

A long Texas road trip didn’t phase the veteran Jacksonville Giants basketball team. Despite a two-point halftime deficit, the Giants remained calm and edged the Texas Red Wolves 116-108. ABA All-Star point guard Maurice Mickens led the Giants with 32 points in the winning effort. The Giants have now advanced to the ABA Final Eight and will play the South Florida Gold on Tuesday night at 8PM.

“The guys won a very hard fought game,” said Giants head coach Kevin Waters.

Early in the contest, Jacksonville jumped out to an early lead with some impressive shooting from Mickens and Bernard Nugent. However, the Red Wolves went on a 12-2 run midway through the second quarter to cut the Giants lead to 37-35. Texas’s Eric Stewart landed two key three-pointers to get the Red Wolves back in the game. Stewart finished with 30 points on the night.

“We jumped out to an early lead, but the Red Wolves hit some unbelievable shots to get back into the game,” said assistant coach Jerry Williams.

Texas continued to trade blows with the Giants the remainder of the first half. Mickens, Nugent, and Jermaine Bell kept landing outside jump shots for the Giants. Defensively the Giants continued to have issues defending a strong Texas shooting game. Both teams continued to go back and forth with Texas taking a 56-54 halftime lead.

Jacksonville came out swinging in the second half opening up with a 15-5 run to start the third quarter. ABA All-Star Elijah “Superman” Smith was able to help the Giants utilize a strong inside game which kept the Red Wolves at bay. Smith ended the night with 21 points. Texas came within one point of regaining the lead early in the third quarter, but the Giants responded with another offensive scoring frenzy.

“First, step complete,” said Smith.

“It was a great team win,” said Jerrod Tucker.

The Giants will now turn their attention to the Final Eight game against a familiar foe in the South Florida Gold. The game will be a single elimination for the opportunity to play in the ABA Final Four. Jacksonville has played South Florida four times this season, defeating the Gold on all four occasions. Jacksonville beat the Gold in scores of 132-102, 134-105, 99-85, and 107-82.

“The first game is always the hardest,” said Waters. “We got through it and now its time to finish what we started.”