There was a reason why Chuck Martin didn’t want to travel to Arizona Christian for a GSAC Tournament quarterfinal game. It had a name: Talib Uqdah.
The junior guard, who singed The Master’s College for 28 points in a 91-81 loss on February 2, was just as good Thursday evening in Phoenix, torching the Mustangs for 26 points as the third-seeded Firestorm beat the Mustangs 84-72. The loss eliminated the Mustangs from the postseason and ended their season at 16-14.
Uqdah wasn’t much of a factor in a first half that saw the FIrestorm use a decisive blitz to take command. He tallied just three points during the opening 20 minutes but his teammates more than made up for that as they reeled off 14 straight points in a 5:29 span, turning an 18-15 deficit into a 29-18 lead.
Jason Logan (Spartanburg, SC), who was a one-man show for much of the evening, scored the Mustangs’ final six points of the first half but it didn’t cut into the deficit as the Firestorm took a 36-24 advantage into halftime. The Mustangs, paced by Logan’s 10 points, shot just 35% from the field in the opening stanza while the Firestorm converted just a tick under 45%.
The Firestorm matched that rate in the second half and they had Uqdah, too. The diminutive guard scored 23 points, including nine in a two-minute stretch that lengthened the hosts’ lead to a game-high 20 points (64-44) with 9:24 left to play.
However, the Firestorm needed nearly every point of that margin down the stretch because the Mustangs staged a comeback that verged on the miraculous. It started with a Devin Dyer (Temecula, CA) trifecta at the 9:09 mark and continued over the next four minutes as the Mustangs outcored the Firestorm 20-5 in that span to close to 69-64 with 5:08 remaining.
Logan scored 10 straight points during the skein, highlighted by a pair of three-pointers, and when sophomore Derrick Fain (Dallas, TX) drained a trey, the Mustangs were down by five with plenty of time left on the clock.
Unfortunately, the Mustangs couldn’t keep the momentum going, scoring just four points in a 3 1/2-minute span and when Uqdah tallied five straight points in a 19-second window, the Firestorm had boosted the margin back into double digits (79-68) and the Mustangs never recovered.
Uqdah’s game-high total came on 7-12 shooting from the field, including 5-8 from behind the arc, and 7-8 accuracy from the line. Meanwhile, Logan was just as brilliant, going 11-15 from the field (4-6 from long range) on the way to a game-high 29 points. Dyer, playing his final game in the blue and gold, scored 16 points and yanked down a game-high nine rebounds while Fain finished with 11 more.