Clutch seniors headline game

Published 10:58 pm Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tonight’s contest between John Essex and Linden also serves as a showcase of two of the county’s top individual talents.

The Patriots rely heavily upon the skills of senior wing Kendarius Goodwill, while JEHS is fueled by the poise of Zackary Fluker.

“Kendarius is so good, he doesn’t know how good he can be,” Linden head coach Joe Eatmon said of Goodwill, who averages 18.7 points and just over seven rebounds per game this season. “This year is really the first year he’s been forced to step up and lead a team. He’s done a good job of adjusting to that. That’s part of the reason we’ve done so well at coming together.”

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Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Goodwill’s well-rounded game is his insistence upon laying back and involving teammates rather than taking over a game.

“I believe in teamwork. I believe in getting my players involved in the game,” the soft-spoken Goodwill said of his propensity for passing up shots in deference to teammates.

Goodwill’s 6-foot-3-inch frame suits a versatile game that allows him to pull up and hit from the outside, get to the basket, score in the post and bang on the low block for rebounds.

“(Tuesday night against Sweet Water) Kendarius might have been 1-for-9 or 10 from the field, but he still ended up with 12 points,” Eatmon said in reference to Goodwill’s versatility and tenacity. “Kendarius is a special kid. He’s only gong to get better because he works so hard.”

A stark contrast in styles, Fluker is slighter than his Linden counterpart. At 5-foot-8, he has continually proven capable of blowing by defenders off the dribble, snaking his way to the basket or pulling up for a jumper from almost any range.

“You have to have somebody like that who is able to ignite the entire team,” JEHS head coach Rodney Dixon said of Fluker. “He’s a guy who is really able to score 10 points in about two minutes.”

Fluker, always a threat to score, is known to turn up his intensity late games as he, like Goodwill, spends much of the first half involving his teammates in the offense.

“At the beginning of the game, I’ve got to be a playmaker, get everybody the ball,” Fluker, who averages 17 points, five assists and six rebounds per game, said. “But when it’s crunch time, I’ve got to score.”

Fluker’s adherence to that philosophy has been on display throughout the season. However, its effects were most prevalent during a Dec. 19 contest against Sweet Water in which the senior staked his claim to the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points in the period and hitting the game-winning shot in the waning seconds.

“In the clutch, you don’t want somebody who is anxious, who’s sporadic,” Dixon said. “You want somebody who is calm to take a nice, decent shot.”

While neither coach wants to be forced into a tight late-game situation, neither makes any bones about who will handle the ball in th fourth quarter.