After the first two games, this much is clear for the Linden High School's boys basketball team: Cairo Brown has icewater in his veins.
The unflappable guard drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer with two sets of hands in his face Saturday as the Tigers stunned Don Bosco Prep 61-60 in the Tip-Off Hoop Group Showcase. Less than 24 hours earlier, he buried a 3-pointer in the final seconds of the fourth quarter to force overtime in an eventual win over Elizabeth.
"Experience is the best teacher," Linden coach Phil Colicchio said. "He was confident. He wants the ball in those situations. He takes a thousand shots a day -- he takes those shots and he makes them."
Saturday's shot capped a superb contest. Linden trailed by six points midway through the fourth quarter but clawed its way back as junior guard Juwan Jones hit a 3-pointer and took a steal back for a layup. It remained a one-point game when Bosco's Paul Jorgenson went to the line with 10.8 seconds left. He made the first and missed the second, and a scrum for the rebound ensued.
Quadri Moore, Linden's 6-foot-8 junior standout, dove on the floor to force a tie-up. The possession arrow was in Linden's favor with 5.8 ticks remaining.
"Coach told us to go after every loose ball -- don't try to pick it up, just dive on it," Moore said. "That's what I did."
It was all Brown from there. He took the side-out inbounds, powered up court, encountered a double-team along the right wing and let fly just over the fingertips of the defenders. The ball swished through the net as the buzzer sounded, touching off an eruption in the stands and on Linden's bench.
"I didn't plan to take that shot," Brown said. "I planned to draw some attention and kick it to somebody else. But the clock was running out and I had to put up a shot."
It wasn't exactly what Colicchio drew up, but it was close.
"I told them before the free throws, 'We're not going to call timeout. We're going to put the ball in Cairo's hands and he's going to look to make a play,' and that's what he did," Colicchio said. "I think everyone thought we would run a screen and try to get it inside to Quadri. Cairo is a creative basketball player, sometimes a little too much, but he can get his own shot off against most people."
Brown finished with 13 points and was named Player of the Game. Moore, a major Division I recruit who was being watched by Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard and other college scouts, put up 16 points, seven rebounds and three steals. He also had two critical blocks late.
"If he continues to do all the little things we've got an All-American on our hands, an NBA player," Colicchio said. "We need him to do those things to be successful."
So Linden is 2-0, with two big-time wins under its belt---both thanks to the clutch shootoing of a cool customer.
"I could be sitting there Sunday eating my macaroni at 0-2," Colicchio said. "I don't think we could have won the Elizabeth game last year and I don't think we could have won this game last year."
Added Brown, "We know now that no matter how close the game is, we can pull it out. We're a tough team."