Photograph by Gary McCullough

Half court baskets, thunderous slam dunks, and astonishing alley-oops was the theme Wednesday night in front of a near-packed crowd at Pedro Menendez High School Gymnasium. However, it wasn’t a high school basketball event, it was the defending 2016 American Basketball Association National Champion Jacksonville Giants.

The Giants returned to the Ancient City and won a tenacious battle with the #1 ranked Orlando Waves 101-98. The victory came in the final half minute of the game as the Giants scored seven points in the final 31 seconds.

Trailing 98-94 with 31 seconds remaining Giants guard Ed Horton landed a three-pointer, cutting the deficit to 98-97. On the ensuing Orlando possession, Giants defender Jerrod Tucker made a leaping steal on the inbound pass resulting in a pass to point guard Maurice Mickens who alley-ooped the ball to 2016 All ABA forward Elijah Smith for a successful slam dunk.

“It was the right place, right time,” said Tucker who is the team captain for the Giants. “As soon as he threw it I knew it was going to be a turnover.”

Trailing 94-91 late in the game the Giants failed to convert on two jump shots and one three pointer. Orlando was able to successfully land two free throws from Brenton Williams to extend the Wave lead to 96-91, until Mickens cut the deficit to 96-94 with a successful layup and free throw. Wave leading scorers Luis Jacobs free throws were successful to keep Orlando in control.

“Coming back like that in such a short time was big for us,” said Smith who was a 2016 All ABA selection.

Orlando went on a strong 14-4 run midway through the third quarter, eventually leading Jacksonville 68-63 late in the third. Giants guard Larry Dumas was fouled on a successful layup attempt and converted his free throw to cut the deficit to 68-66. Tucker of the Giants converted another three point play, with Mickens landing back to back three pointers giving the Giants a 75-72 lead going into the fourth quarter. Mickens, a 2016 ABA Finals MVP, finished with a team high 25 points on the night.
The Giants had their share of big plays. At the end of the first quarter Dumas landed a jaw dropping half court basket to give the Giants an 18-17 lead. Other notable game highlights included two slam dunks from 2016 All ABA forward Smith, whose nickname is “Super Man.”

“I just wanted to make a game winning play to help my team win,” said Smith.

The Giants presence was very exhilarating for the St. Augustine community. The Giants halftime show entertained the crowd with multiple events. The Jewels and Gems dance team performed acrobatic slam dunks off trampolines while the Giants mascot Mr. Biggs signed autographs and took pictures with fans. Various game activities for young fans also occurred during game timeouts and breaks in the action.

Jacksonville returns to Veterans Memorial Arena on Saturday night to play the Unbeaten DMV Warriors. The Warriors are based out of Washington DC. The game will be broadcast by CW17 and 1010 XL radio with tipoff starting at 7:30pm.