Marquis Carter said he normally follows his shot, but when he stepped back to unleash a game-tying 3-pointer on Friday with 9.8 seconds to go in overtime, he backpedaled instead.
In perhaps the most triumphant return from injury possible, Carter's deep triple tied Waukesha North's game against Arrowhead on Jan. 29, 74-74, and somehow, the senior point guard wasn't done. He recorded the last of his 16 points on a drive to the basket with 2.7 seconds left in double overtime, giving North an 83-81 upset over a team that came into the night tied for first place in the Classic 8 Conference.
"I think the 3-pointer was the bigger moment," Carter admitted. "We were down 3 and needed the points. (With the game tied), I was more comfortable taking the shot at the end of the game. I knew if I made it, we would win for sure. As soon as they inbounded the ball to me, it went through my head, 'I live for these moments.' I had to make it happen."
Carter took the inbound from under his hoop, calmly dribbled up the floor, briefly worked with a screen set by Will McDonald and then dribbled around his defender to the block, where he tossed up a game-winner that swished through.
"Marquis brings a whole new dynamic to our game," coach Sam Katula said. "He is a player that can get to the paint and finish, as well as step behind screens and knock down big threes. What I enjoy the most, however, is the energy and focus he brings to practice. Being a four-year varsity player, he has the leadership skills you need to take your team to the next level. He holds our players and himself accountable in practice and finds ways to get guys playing beyond their comfort zone. We are lucky to have him back from injury, but I am just happy for him. He is too good of a talent to be out his entire senior year, and he loves the game so much. It would have been a shame if he couldn't go for the rest of the season."
Hobbled by injury
Carter played in just two games this season before sustaining a Jones fracture on the fifth metatarsal of his foot, one that necessitated the surgical implementation of a pin.
"My doctor said to just to be patient with it," Carter said. "If I didn't get surgery, I wouldn't come back at all. (Coming back against Arrowhead) was the perfect opportunity for me to help the team win against a good team."
He watched as North fashioned an 8-4 record, with a close win over Kettle Moraine and a narrow 2-point loss to then-frontrunning Muskego among the outcomes.
"It was pretty tough, but I still kept a smile on my face watching all those games," Carter said.
Carter was a huge reason why the Northstars accomplished something unusual one year earlier, reaching the sectional level despite taking last place in the Classic 8. North was the only team from the league to make it that far.
"(Winning the league) was the goal from last year from the playoffs; we knew we could compete with anyone when we went really deep, made it to sectionals and lost against (eventual state qualifier) Greendale," Carter said. "We knew we could do some damage this year. That was a huge confidence boost for us. It helped us realize that we could compete with anyone in the Classic 8 and the state."
North (5-3 in Classic 8) entered the week tied for third place, with a pivotal rematch against Kettle Moraine (also 5-3) scheduled for Tuesday. Arrowhead fell to 6-2, and Muskego moved back out front at 7-1. North will see Muskego again Feb. 18.
Rallying a program
North's success comes at a welcome time for the school, which has expressed its inability to compete in the Classic 8 as it relates to the discussion of realignment in Southeastern Wisconsin. But despite objections, some of which citing a financial disadvantage for North and South students, the WIAA forwarded a proposal from its Jan. 27 meeting that kept both North and South in the league, facing off with powerhouse programs such as those at Arrowhead.
At that meeting, North athletics director Brian Schlei pointed out that North and South had finished seventh or eighth 100 out of a possible 220 times in the past 10 years across sports.
"A lot of people are coming to our games now and starting to recognize us," Carter said. "When did we last have a North team in the top half (of the league)?"
So beating Arrowhead is just that much sweeter.
"It was high school basketball at its best," Katula said. "Guys were making shots on both teams, turnovers were low, high energy and a desire to win the game. We led the entire first half, and then Arrowhead took the lead early in the second. We did not lead again until the second overtime."