Not only Maurice Watson's nose was broken by late yesterday afternoon.

So was his spirit, and he'd been the hero, not the goat, in a Public B basketball game.

It was one of those days, folks. And during the latter portion, then for a good 20 minutes thereafter as Fire Department medical personnel cared for Derrick Mitchell before finally transporting him to Hahnemann University Hospital, everyone in the Cunningham Community Center was distraught.

Watson is a 5-9, 150-pound guard for Boys' Latin Charter and, after a rough outing, he emerged as the difference-maker in a 58-47 victory over Franklin Learning Center.

At 5:16, with Mitchell, a senior guard from FLC who had taken a hard fall, about to be wheeled on a gurney out of the gym on Wallace Street between 10th and 11th, FLC coach Leonard Poole told head referee Phil Harding and the Pub's new basketball chairman, Ben Dubin, who happened to be in attendance, "I'll give the game up. I can't see playing now. I'm worried about my player. Not the game."

Two minutes, 30 seconds remained. Soon, an announcement asking all spectators to depart was being made. Watson had long looked unnerved.

"I'm going to have to go to the hospital, too, for my nose," he said. "But I'm worried about Derrick. This is scary. He's a good friend. We play ball together. My heart goes out to him and his family."

At 8:50 last night, Poole reported that Mitchell had suffered a concussion, but that tests for more serious issues were negative.

"He's OK, but he has a helluva headache," Poole added. "To see a kid laying right in front of you, slipping in and out of consciousness, that's as scary as it gets.

"This was some day. A lady fell outside the gym [on ice/snow] and hit her head; she was OK. And I got a call that my daughter was in a car accident; she's OK, too, Everybody should have stayed home today, right?"

Watson also went to Hahnemann to be treated for his injury.

The hoops injuries took place along the west sideline, maybe 20 feet apart.

Watson suffered his broken nose - the middle part pointed noticeably to his left - in a scramble for a loose ball, shortly into the third quarter, with FLC's Aahmid Mink. The former crashed hard against the latter's shoulder.

"It shocked me for a minute," Watson said. "I had my eyes closed, and then I opened them and saw the blood gushing out all over the floor."

Footsteps away, a female spectator shrieked, "He's leakin'!!"

Holding his nose and tilting his head back, Watson, accompanied by trainer Ryan Tierney, walked toward the southeast corner of the gym and disappeared briefly for treatment. He missed only 42 seconds of action.

Mitchell was hurt with 3:09 left in the game.

Watson had the ball. Mitchell rushed toward him, attempting a trap. Watson unfurled a ball fake and Mitchell went flying upward. He brushed against Watson and fell hard on his head and shoulder.

FLC's cheerleaders, who'd been perched on the stage at the opposite end of the court, rushed to that spot. Some cried. Mitchell writhed for part of his time on the floor, and a referee said a nearby spectator told him Mitchell's thigh and arm had been twitching.

After several minutes, Tierney and another adult walked Mitchell, who was holding the back of his head, from the northwest to southeast corner. Just outside the entrance to the gym, Mitchell sat briefly on a pile of gym mats, accompanied by Tierney. As Mitchell finally tried to stand up, he collapsed to the floor. By this time, the game had resumed.

Mitchell's body was pointing south, with his head only 4 feet from the baseline. Luckily, the action - seven lightning-quick points by BL - was taking place at the far end. Before the players had a chance to roar back downcourt, the refs halted the action.

Tierney said he decided to walk Mitchell off the floor, rather than immediately call for emergency medical personnel, "because he was responsive and showed no signs of a [serious] neck injury."

Watson will remember the game for more than the injuries. Though he entered this season with 1,000-plus career points, he owned only three - posted all the way back at the beginning - through three quarters.

They'd come on a drive for a three-point play. He then missed eight consecutive shots.

As it turns out, Watson and FLC's best player, senior guard Turhan Griffin, are great buddies. Maurice said he made the mistake of trying to outdo Turhan (22 points, 11 rebounds, six steals).

"I was playing for myself, and not for my team," he said.

(He was being way too hard on himself. Yes, he wasn't connecting, but his teammates were flubbing shots that could have enabled him to collect a dozen-plus assists.)

"Once I hurt my nose, I realized I wasn't going to be as effective as I usually am, with penetrating and kicking it out," he added. "I started taking more jump shots. My dad [Maurice Sr., BL's coach] was telling me, 'Look, you gotta shoot the ball.' Once I hit that first three, I felt like I had my rhythm."

The Warriors won the fourth quarter, 21-2. Watson contributed 10 of his 13 points, and fellow guard Yahmir Greenlee added six of his 11. For the game, Watson also totaled three steals and six apiece of rebounds/assists.

Watson, who's blessed with incredibly quick hands and feet, entered this season with 1,069 points. He now boasts 1,116. Serious recruiting attention is coming from multiple Ivies, most locals and other schools such as Rice, Virginia Commonwealth and Boston U.

"All that's down the line," he said. "My only job is to help us win."

And get his nose realigned. *