Marquese Chriss had just fouled out. He grinned a bit knowing his night was over, but there was only one-and-a-half seconds left on the clock. His Pleasant Grove team were moments away from defeating Elk Grove, 64-49, in front of a packed home crowd.
The 6-8 center mildly acknowledged verbal barbs being hurled his way from the Elk Grove student section a few feet away with a smirk. He said something briefly to Herd head coach Mat Bradley who he almost bumped into in his glance towards the Elk Grove cheering section.
He slapped a few hands of teammates, got a handshake from his head coach, Dwayne Smith, and sat down on the bench.
“Some of (the fouls) I could disagree with but you can’t go back and change it, so you have to live with it,” he said.
Chriss presence Friday night was powerful , but, relatively brief that night – he played just under 20 minutes because of foul trouble. He led the Eagles with 17 points. However, when he was in the game the University of Washington signee was flying high above the crowd on the floor.
All night long he changed shots by Elk Grove shooters, outrebounded the smaller Herd frontline and put on quite a show of athleticism.
Once he blocked a Tanner Murphy shot about a foot above the rim. Despite the cries of Bradley for a goal tending call, which fell on deaf ears, the crowd emitted a loud “wow.”
In his brief stint in the third quarter he took an alley-oop pass from James Fox and slammed it through with both hands, much to the glee of the “Flock”, nickname for the Pleasant Grove student section.
But, moments later Chriss was back on the bench after drawing foul number four. He didn’t seem to worry. His team was leading 40-26 at the time with 4:42 left in the period and knew the guys around him would hold the lead.
“We have a team around me. They can continue to succeed even if I am not on the floor,” he said.
Elk Grove did pull to within seven points, 45-38 at the end of the third quarter. Chriss was back on the floor and the Herd couldn’t close the gap. Chriss’ three point play and a pair of free throws a few seconds later and Pleasant Grove’s lead was back to double digits.
Chriss also sat out much of the second quarter after picking up his third foul just 50 seconds into that period. At the time Pleasant Grove had a 21-10 lead but the Herd’s poor shooting (three-for-eleven in the second quarter) couldn’t make a dent into the Eagles’ lead. Plus, Johan Tate’s pair of three-pointers and the play of senior forward Mason Johnson helped overcome the absence of Chriss.
“I am having the best season in my high school career,” he said. “As I am getting older I am feeling more comfortable, doing the things I know I could do.”
Chriss is pleased the Eagles are 4-0 after the first two weeks of the Delta League schedule. They are tied with rival Sheldon for first place. The Huskies trailed much of the game Friday with Jesuit before pulling out a 61-55 victory.
“We’re doing real good, playing together, playing smart,” he said. “We’re working on finishing games and not letting teams come back. That’s something we really got to work on.”
Chriss knows when those two clubs meet up Fri, Jan. 23 on the Pleasant Grove home court he cannot afford to be in foul trouble.
“I feel we have to compete a lot harder, stay in the game and play how we can play. That’s what got us to 4-0 in the league thus far,” he said.