First, he had to cope with the ejection itself, then the resulting one-game suspension. So when Bob Cimmino finally broke it to Martin that he couldn’t even show up to watch his team play Bishop Loughlin last month, the Mount Vernon coach suggested catching a movie instead.
More than two weeks later, what Martin still hasn’t watched is a replay of the Knights’ humbling 20-point loss.
“I wouldn’t watch it if I was him either,” Cimmino said.
When he returned from suspension Sunday, Martin could hardly contain his glee – and big Bishop Kearney couldn’t contain him period. The 6-foot-4 junior made his first six shot attempts and powered his way to 24 points and 13 rebounds in Mount Vernon’s 71-61 victory over another state-ranked Class AA opponent at Army’s Christl Arena.
The Kings (2-4) played again without 6-foot-10 Syracuse-bound big man Chinoso Obokoh (ankle), but Martin still needed to bully past the 6-10 Godspower Ogide and 6-9 Thomas Bryant, two-thirds of the state’s biggest frontcourt. His fast start included 12 points as Mount Vernon (4-1) built a 29-13 lead with 6:09 left in the first half.
“They’re taller than me, but I can outmuscle them,” said Martin, who was named the game’s MVP. “That’s what I try to do.”
Although it worked, the Knights relaxed and eventually squandered their lead. They fell behind for the only time on game, 43-42, on a 3-pointer by Byrant late in the third quarter, and were temporarily foiled by Bryant’s seven blocks.
“We got lackadaisical and thought the game was over,” said senior Jamal Lewis (pictured right), who had 16 points. “We can’t do that. We have to keep pushing and stay focused.”
Part of the reason Mount Vernon lost its rhythm in the first half was foul trouble for senior point guard Josh Doughty. Not surprisingly, Doughty’s return provided a spark. He hit a pair of quick 3-pointers to trigger an 8-0 stretch to close the quarter and went on to score 14 points to go with five assists and four steals.
Mount Vernon also ramped up its defensive pressure, which had helped build the early lead. The Knights forced 26 turnovers in the game, but they were pivotal in them regaining control of the game.
So was Doughty, who had all of his 14 points in the closing stretch after being held scoreless in the first half.
“Josh makes us go,” Cimmino said. “If Josh makes good decisions, we’re a very good team.”
Martin’s importance was evident as well during the Bishop Loughlin loss. The Knights were outrebounded 41-23 that afternoon, surrendering second chance points against an opponent good enough to not need them. With Martin back, they outrebounded the Bishop Kearney 43-29. That included 20 offensive rebounds, eight of which were grabbed by Martin himself.
Martin and teammate Gary Johnson had been forced to sit after they were ejected in the championship of the REB Invitational in Edmonton. Martin believed he had let the team down and played with that as his on Sunday.
“It was definitely on my mind the whole time that we lost and I didn’t get to help my team,” Martin said. “My first game coming back, I did everything I could to help them win.”