Western Holds On To Defeat Renaissance 65-64 For First PSL Title Since 1922

20 Feb

IMG_0135It happened.  For the first time since the inventions of the television, bubble gum, and microwave, the Detroit Western Cowboys are Detroit Public School League champs.  1922 to be exact.

Western, undefeated and ranked number one in the state, had averaged 67 points in contests prior to facing Detroit Renaissance in the city title game.  Fortunately for Coach McDowell’s Cowboys, the team was able adjust to a different tempo than usual.

“At halftime I told them if we’re going to win it, we’re going to win it with our defense.”

Whether it was exceptional defense or poor offensive performances, both teams struggled to find baskets in the opening half.  Renaissance shot a dismal 8-25 from the field, and Western wasn’t much better at 10-25.

“It’s been like that the last three or four games,” McDowell said after the game.  “We just haven’t shot the ball well.”

Renaissance methodically controlled the game in the first half, limiting turnovers, forcing Western to settle for contested perimeter jump shots, and challenging 6’8″ center Gerald Blackshear at the rim.

The Phoenix led 24-23 at half, despite All-City first team member Justin Turner shooting 1-8 from the floor.  Western decided to rotate through guards Brailen Neely, Kyree Boyton, Josh McFolley, and Kareem Murray to wear down Turner.

Renaissance continued to lead by one entering the fourth.  Western needed a play to shift momentum.  Junior guard Armani Tinsley is as quality a sixth man as there is in the state.  Tinsley scored four straight points in less than a minute to begin the fourth, giving the Cowboys 40-37, a lead the Phoenix would not reclaim the remainder of the fourth.  Tinsley finished with 8 points and five rebounds.

“It’s very deep, our bench is very deep,” said senior point guard Josh McFolley.  “So when one goes down, another comes up, so they come up big.”

Western’s largest lead of the fourth was four points.  The fun didn’t start until 1:17 left on the clock, down three, Justin Turner was called for an offensive foul.  Western started to run down the clock, the Phoenix decided to foul McFolley, not their first choice, with 47 seconds remaining.  McFolley missed, Renaissance quickly out-leted the ball to Turner, he drove and scored, Phoenix down one.  With 18.5 seconds left, junior forward Alaric Jackson stumbled upon a Western blunder, Renaissance ball down one.    Western elected to foul twice, the Cowboys were under the limit with four, just enough.  Not a soul in the gym thought Turner would not get the ball.  Turner did, he missed a contested mid-range jumper, Western ball up one, five seconds left.

“It actually looked good, I was scared, I was nervous,” said Brailen Neely, who finished with a team high 14 points.  “It was in the air, a whole bunch of thoughts went through my mind.”

Gerald Blackshear rebounded it, send him to the line.  Blackshear missed.  Phoenix ball down one 1.8 left.  Freshman Jalen Tobias took the inbound, pivoted, and found senior point guard Daryl Smith.  Smith launched it from 40 feet, the ball struck iron, and fell like a feather to the ground.  Game over.

The Cowboys can take a deep breath, their undefeated record remains intact.

“Of course there’s pressure,” Blackshear referred to following the game surrounding his team.  “Because we’re number one, we lose everybody’s like aww man, but they win it’s like oh my God they won.”

McDowell adds his fourth PSL title to his résumé, his first at Western, the previous three came while the head man for Detroit Redford, now closed.

“It’s an extreme honor to win under McDowell because he expects so much out you,” Neely added.  “When you win you feel you met his expectations.”

The win is special for the aforementioned McFolley and Blackshear.  Both have played together throughout high school, previously at Mt. Clemens, and now Western.  The two are so connected, both decided to commit together and attend U of D Mercy for college.  The same court the championship game was played on.

“We were excited about it,” Gerald said about the opportunity to play on the court where he will continue his career on.  “Ever since we got to the championship, we just kept talking about it.”

McFolley is known for offense, his three point shot is his specialty.  However, he only made one shot the entire night, a three, and two free-throws.  While Gerald is the opposite.  Blackshear contributed seven points, but hauled in 12 rebounds, and deflected two shots.  Just his role on the team.

“Defense wins championship, this a championship, defense won.”

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