His top-ranked Central High team ahead by two points against Bullard -- the program that has ruled Central Section boys basketball the past three years -- Murshid Randle was fouled with 4.2 seconds remaining Friday night at the Fresno City College gym.
And long before the senior walked down the court and to the free-throw line, Grizzlies fans began the chant:
"MVP! MVP! MVP!"
Randle, long immune to pressure in a four-year career launched with an All-State Freshman season, calmly made both shots, turned to acknowledge his endorsers, raised his left hand, gave them a point of thanks and that was it -- Central 70, Bullard 66 in a nonleague game sure to have strong Division I seeding ramifications in two months.
"It just felt good to knock down those free throws for my team," said The Bee 2013 All-Star and Tri-River Athletic Conference Player of the Year. "We stayed together and came out of here with a big win."
Darius Hamilton, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, delivered three momentum-changing 3-pointers among his 27 points, and Randle finished with 18 as Central improved to 16-3 on a night it trailed 29-18 early in the second quarter.
And the latest victory -- charged by a 19-6 run to close the first half and assisted by freshmen Jaylon Johnson and Chris Lee -- came clearly with added satisfaction, given the fact Bullard had defeated the Grizzlies decidedly five times in the past three years while going 85-15, including 62-3 against section competition, with three D-I titles.
But the Knights are dealing with a different deck.
Gone to Clovis North is coach Tony Amundsen, who observed his brother -- Central coach Tim Amundsen -- from behind the south basket Friday night.
Gone to graduation are 10 players, including Bee co-Players of the Year Chris Russell and Corey Silverstrom.
And gone for another two weeks is starting point guard Austin Armstead, a junior and three-year veteran who suffered a stress fracture in his right foot a month ago.
Senior point guard Quinn Rystad, who backed Russell last year, was outstanding running the floor, making three 3-pointers and scoring 17 points for the Knights, who are 6-8 against largely out-of-area, state-class competition.
And Bee All-Star forward Calvin Young, in his best game of the season, was dominant inside with 22 points and six blocks.
Bottom line: New coach Jeff Schmidt, who came from Sunnyside, left feeling fine -- even in defeat.
"We'll be all right," he said. "We're heading in the right direction. We're getting better and we don't have our best player (Armstead). I think our best games are ahead of us -- that's for sure."
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